A new film and books about organizer and strategist Bayard Rustin bring attention to the crucial, hidden tradition of practical radicalism.
For the past 20 years, I’ve walked at least nine miles a day on the body shop floor of the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where I help assemble the Chevy Cruze. In a few weeks, when GM shutters our plant, I’ll walk my last mile.
I don’t know what’s next for me and nearly 15,000 other workers who are being laid off at GM plants across the country.
What I do know is that GM is forcing my fellow workers to choose between mandatory relocation to other plants, hundreds of miles away from their families, and the unemployment line.
For me and many of my co-workers, this is a false choice. I can’t just pick up and leave. My entire family lives in the Lordstown area — my 84-year-old mother is too frail to move and she relies on me for her care. I’m also expecting my first grandchild here in June. But if I don’t relocate, I may not be able to find another job that pays a living wage.
Which is why I’m choosing instead to fight for the fair treatment and dignity that I deserve.
The truth is that our political leaders have failed America’s workers. President Donald Trump promised to revive the auto industry, but he hasn’t done anything to force GM to save our jobs. In fact, instead of punishing GM, the Trump administration has awarded the company with billions of dollars in federal contracts.
GM isn’t the only corporation that’s profiting from our tax dollars even as it betrays workers. New research from Good Jobs Nation shows that 185,000 jobs have been lost to foreign competition on Trump’s watch, and that his administration has awarded more than $115 billion in federal contracts to companies such as GM that continue to offshore jobs.
Our tax dollars shouldn’t reward job killers. That’s why the thousands of workers who are being laid off by GM — and the surrounding communities hurt by GM’s closure of our productive, profitable plant — are calling on the 2020 presidential candidates to come to Lordstown to tell us how they’re going to do what Trump won’t do: hold GM accountable and save our jobs.
Politicians who ignore Rust Belt towns like Lordstown do so at their peril. Returns from the recent midterm election indicate that Trumbull County — which flipped from blue to red in 2016 — flipped back to blue in 2018.
Workers in our county realized that Trump’s continued inaction to bring jobs back spoke louder than his rhetoric. With unemployment and poverty rates — at 6 percent and 17 percent, respectively — well above the national averages, we need politicians who will do what it takes to turn things around.
Here in Lordstown, GM was the only game in town for workers looking for a decent wage to support their families. What’s more, our plant supported many other jobs in the community. It’s estimated that for every GM job lost, there will be three or four jobs lost in the surrounding community.
Lordstown has given a lot over the years to GM — from tax breaks and subsidies during the auto bailout to a skilled, hard-working workforce. Now, GM is just walking away and sending our jobs to Mexico. They don’t seem to care that they’re taking our hopes for the future with them.
We need politicians who will stand on our side, not on the side of corporations that only care about their profit margins.
I hope to see the 2020 presidential candidates here in Lordstown soon. And I hope to hear them outline their plans to hold GM and other offshoring corporations accountable. We need good jobs here now. Our future and the future of our community depend on it.
Originally published by OtherWords.org.