Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Lordstown, Ohio, faces the closure of the GM plant that buoyed its community for almost 53 years.

General Motors’ (GM) Lordstown Township plant’s first car, a Chevrolet Impala, cruised onto the road on April 28, 1966, and decades of work at the plant followed. But on Wednesday, the plant’s last car rolled off the assembly line, 1,400 jobs came to an end, and entire community suffers in their wake.

One of five GM plants that will be idled, Lordstown shut down production. Though 700 Lordstown workers have transferred to other GM plants, many are unable to uproot their families and have been left to search for new employment.

 

 

For GM executives like CEO Mary Bara, the closure of plants like Lordstown represents a shifting of gears to accommodate emerging automotive trends. But the human toll of the decision to unallocate plants is very real.

When family-supporting manufacturing jobs leave a town, few workers, particularly those without a college degree, can find employment that can replace these valuable jobs, as this Washington Post article illustrates.

GM production workers can earn between $61,000 and $88,000 annually. In stark contrast, the average salary in the area surrounding the Lordstown plant was only $38,000 in 2017.

With few employment options left in Lordstown, some workers are holding out hope that United Automobile Workers’ (UAW) labor contract negotiations with GM this fall will bring new production to the Lordstown plant. (UAW is currently also in the process of suing GM for stopping production at three plants before labor contracts expired.)

We at AAM hope that it is indeed not too late to restore at least some of these lost jobs. However, there’s much that could have been done to prevent the plant closures from the start. When corporate greed overrides responsible custodianship of a company, not only do workers lose, but entire communities supported by these valuable manufacturing jobs are devastated.

 

Manufacturing jobs have an outsize impact on employment outside the factory – a boon for areas where manufacturing is supported and a calamity where manufacturing jobs are eliminated. As a 2015 Economic Policy Institute report states, “For every person directly employed in manufacturing, manufacturing output supports more than 1.4 jobs elsewhere in the economy.”

The Lordstown community clears understands this – more than 100 people supported workers at the plant’s closing Wednesday, and Lordstown school board members lamented the strife children will experience in the closing’s aftermath – more than 10 percent of the school district’s students will be directly impacted by the plant closure.

GM’s workers are highly-trained professionals who deserve the opportunity to grow with their company. Bringing production of GM’s more popular models would honor their work and fully utilize GM’s human capital.