Schoolchildren write letters to GM CEO, plead to reconsider Ohio plant's future

December 19, 2018

School districts near an assembly plant General Motor said in November it plans to close have teamed up with the United Auto Workers union to carry out a letter-writing campaign to the automaker's CEO. The students were tasked with penning their "Christmas wish" of keeping the facility open, according the Detroit Free Press last week.

In November, GM announced a major restructuring effort that will see four plants in the U.S. idled and potentially closed beginning in March. One of those plants is the Lordstown plant that builds the Chevy Cruze sedan near Warren, Ohio.

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Many of them described an unimaginable situation that will see them uprooted from their homes and transferred across the country so their parents can find work at a new GM production plant. Others said it wasn't possible to relocate. One student said his parents depended on the plant and he will not be able to afford prescriptions for his diagnosed diseases. The campaign is a touching way to add a human element to boardroom decisions.

A GM spokesperson confirmed the letters will be delivered to Barra personally and she will receive them. In a statement obtained by the newspaper, the automaker said, "We are working very hard on providing job opportunities for Lordstown and other impacted employees interested in working at other GM plants. Of course we will accept the children’s letters when delivered and will certainly respond."

The letter-writing campaign is part of a broader program called "Drive It Home Ohio" that's meant to underscore the importance of Lordstown to the surrounding area. UAW Local 1112 President David Green, who spearheaded the letters and helps organized the effort itself, said GM's attempts to smooth over the detrimental news won't fly.

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He said it's simply not possible to transfer every single worker from Lordstown to a new facility. He added he still oversees 700 laid off workers from Lordstown who aren't able to transfer to another facility where employees are needed. 

"GM says that because they want to reframe it. But they can’t just relocate those people," he added. GM laid off two shifts of workers before finally announcing plans to idle the Ohio facility.

The automaker will need to negotiate the closure of Lordstown, the Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Michigan, and two other transmission operation facilities with the UAW. Its announcement to shutter an assembly plant in Ontario, Canada, has prompted pushback from the Canadian Auto Workers union. Discussions will begin next year as the UAW's labor agreement with GM expires next September.

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