Labor figures to be a strong factor Nov. 8

RELATED: Unions still carry clout in elections

By William k. ALCORN



UAW And The 2016 Presidential Election

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UAW 1112 members speak out about the 2016 Presidential race.

Tara Ragozine is a third-generation autoworker who knows, without question, who she will vote for Nov. 8.

“I am supporting Hillary Clinton because she supports unions,” she said on the patio at Ross’

Eatery and Pub in Lordstown.

The pub is a hangout for union members. The Vindicator joined them Thursday afternoon.

Ragozine, 28, of Austintown had just gotten off work at the General Motors Lordstown Assembly Complex where she has worked for eight years.

She’s one of about 4,500 workers at the plant where the Chevrolet Cruze is built.

The plant has two United Auto Workers unions: Local 1112, which represents the assembly workers, and Local 1714, which represents fabrication plant workers. Most of the workers here support the Democrat presidential nominee, as does the international union.

In May, the UAW announced its endorsement of Clinton and cited her commitment to supporting UAW members.

“Hillary Clinton understands our issues on trade, understands the complexities of multinational economies and supports American workers, their families and communities,” UAW President Dennis Williams said at the time.

But surely there are some supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump who are also UAW members?

“I am sure there are,” said Glenn Johnson, president of UAW Local 1112. “I think it’s a very small percentage. They are just Republicans by nature.”


Don Kromer, 56, of Poland, is a member of the local plumbers and pipefitters union.

Kromer has been a pipefitter for 25-plus years. He welds pipe in steel mills, power houses and refineries.

He’s voting for Trump.

“I want to see a change,” Kromer said.

Kromer’s vote is a departure from his union. In September, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry endorsed Clinton.

Kromer doesn’t understand why, however. He also doesn’t understand why blue-collar workers are Clinton supporters – noting her anti-coal messages.

“She’s anti-coal ... you have to have it to make steel,” he said. “It makes no sense to me.”

Kromer is also concerned about who Clinton will nominate for openings on the Supreme Court. He doesn’t like how the Supreme Court is now, and he would trust Trump’s decision more than Clinton’s.

At the third debate, Trump said he would select justices who would block restrictions on gun ownership and return the abortion decision to each state. Clinton said she would appoint justices who would say no to Citizens United – a law that prevents the government from interfering in company spending on campaigns – and support the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.

“She’s going to load it up to get what she wants,” Kromer said. “She wants to get her way, and she doesn’t care if she lies.”

Mark Munroe, chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, says blue-collar workers should support Trump for the same reason Americans, in general, should: his commitment to amend trade laws that have hurt manufacturing, to reform tax law to boost the economy, to repeal Obamacare and to work on border security.

“We have created an economic system that in order for business to survive, they are forced to go overseas,” Munroe said.

Munroe said while international unions like the UAW and USW endorse Clinton, several of their rank-and-file members back Trump.

“I have talked to many of them, and they are not supporting Clinton,” he said.


Ragozine, a UAW Local 1112 member, does repair work at the end of the GM Lordstown’s assembly line.

She knows what’s important to her as an American and an autoworker: having a stable leader who supports labor.

This election is important to Ragozine because the next president could nominate as many as three Supreme Court justices.

“I feel safer with [Clinton] in office than Donald Trump,” she says.

Trump isn’t a team player in Ragozine’s eyes.

“I think it would be destructive if he got in,” Ragozine said. “He can’t work with anyone because of his ego.”

Ragozine wasn’t always backing Clinton. She was a Bernie Sanders supporter.

James Whirrett joined Ragozine and other Lords-

town workers at Ross’ when his shift ended.

Whirrett has been an autoworker at GM Lordstown for 21 years. The 47-year-old Columbiana resident also will vote for Clinton.

“Democrats support unions,” he said. “They’ve supported us in the past, and I believe they will support us in the future.”

But Whirrett isn’t sure about Clinton as commander in chief.

“With the right people around her, I believe she could do a good job,” he said.

James Ledenko of Girard and Sheldon Brogdon of Warren also were in the crowd enjoying an after-work beer at Ross.’

Ledenko and Brogdon are members of Laborers International Union Local 935 working for the Kokosing Construction Co., which is participating in building the new Lordstown Energy Center.

“Hillary has experience in government. She knows what’s going on,” Brogdon said.

“Trump has no respect for women and is no friend to labor. I couldn’t morally vote for him,” Ledenko said.


“I don’t care for either one of them. They both act like children,” said Don Walker of Texas, who is temporarily working in the area.

An independent, Walker said he voted for Bill Clinton, Hillary’s husband, but said he will vote for Trump in this election.

“I believe in gun rights,” he said.

Derek Kline of Ellsworth, who said he “proudly served my country” in the Coast Guard from 1981 to 1985, is a self-employed, nonunion construction worker who is pro-Trump. But, he said, his girlfriend will probably “go the other way.”

“Bill [Clinton] did a good job, but I don’t believe Hillary can do it. I’m not buying it,” Kline said.

Johnson, the UAW Local 1112 president, said it would be “devastating for the nation if Trump is elected.”

“I support Hillary Clinton,” Johnson said. “She is the most poised and even-keeled of the two candidates. I honestly believe her demeanor gives the people confidence. She is also the most knowledgeable and experienced in government.”

Clinton has promised to revisit the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement to ensure an even playing field for U.S. companies, Johnson said.

The TPP is a trade agreement among 12 of the Pacific Rim countries, not including China. NAFTA created one of the world’s largest free-trade zones and involved the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“Do I agree with everything the Clintons have done ?

... No,” Johnson said. “But, I’d rather have someone in the presidency who would give organized labor a seat at the table.”