By William K. Alcorn
President Donald Trump’s latest Twitter-fueled firestorm caused reactions throughout the Mahoning Valley on Sunday.
Trump fired off two tweets, one criticizing United Auto Workers Local 1112 President David Green and a second aimed at GM CEO Mary Barra.
For his part, Green appeared to take the high road in a statement Sunday night.
“We’re doing everything we can with the Drive It Home Ohio campaign to convince General Motors CEO Mary Barra to reinvest in GM Lordstown,” said Green in response.
The tweeted response of David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, to President Trump was less diplomatic.
Betras said: “David Green has to get his job done? You lied to 7,000 valley supporters and cajoled them not to sell their homes because ALL the jobs and factories are coming back...”
Lordstown’s mayor appeared to straddle both sides.
“I’m glad President Trump is pushing the closing of General Motors Lordstown in the forefront in people’s minds,” said Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill. “But, to come out against Dave Green is wrong. He has done everything he can, and so have I and others in the Mahoning Valley.”
But Dave Johnson, Columbiana County Republican Party chairman and treasurer of the Ohio Republican Party, maintained Sunday evening he had not seen either of Trump’s tweets, suspending some level of belief as the Tweets were more quoted in the Valley on Sunday than Irish blessings.
Still, he managed to issue a perfunctory statement.
“I’m not critical of anybody who is trying to get Lordstown back on its feet. I’m anxious to help in anyway that I can. We really need to get that facility back and we ought to be working together to get it operating. Finger-pointing at Trump or business or labor or anybody doesn’t accomplish anything. We ought to put that aside to work toward getting a new occupant for that facility,” said Johnson.
An economic study by Cleveland State University estimates the March 6 idling of the Lordstown facility that built the Chevy Cruze since 2010 will have a more than $3 billion impact on the output of regional industry.
It also estimates 1,256 more private-sector jobs will be lost, in addition to the 1,607 jobs lost as a direct result of the plant’s idling.
Taken with the loss of the plant’s third and second shifts, the cumulative economic impact to the region is estimated at $8.2 billion and a “total loss of 7,711 jobs or 4.4 percent of employment in the Ohio part of the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman” metropolitan statistical area, the report concludes.
The president’s tweet about Green produced several other critical responses by Democrat and union officials.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, called the president’s remarks regarding Green “disparaging, offensive, counterproductive and insulting. It does nothing to help bring back the manufacturing jobs he promised. We all deserve better.”
Ryan said Green has been working around the clock to help save jobs, families and the community.
Green reached out to Trump twice, in letters dated July 6, 2018, and Feb. 1, 2019, asking for help.
Ryan noted Green received no response from Trump.
Similarly direct, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown tweeted: “Mr. President, Dave Green and the workers at @UAW Local 1112 have shown grit and determination in the face of adversity, fighting for Lordstown from day-one. Instead of attacking workers, it’s past time you stood up to GM and joined the fight.”
James Dignan, president and chief executive officer of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said he is not aware of anybody who has a serious interest in the GM Lordstown facility.
Dignan helped launch the Drive it Home Ohio campaign, a grassroots coalition of business, labor and elected leaders working to urge General Motors to reinvest in the GM Lordstown manufacturing facility.
“We’ve been working to bring additional investment here to the Youngstown area. We’ve got the workforce, the location and the facility. And, we’ve been to Columbus and Detroit and met with Mary Barra about the future of the Lordstown facility,” Dignan said.
Regarding Trump’s criticism of Green, Dignan said: “I’m not sure there is any more that Dave could have done.”
“First and foremost, we want to keep the plant in everybody’s mind. The overall performance of the plant and its employees were top notch, showing good leadership on Dave’s part,” said Dignan.
Green seemed to stick to the Drive It Home script, not seeking to create a confrontation.
“As Mary Barra has said, GM plans to discuss our fate with the UAW in the fall, and we are focused on getting a new product in Lordstown,” Green said.
“Folks here in the Mahoning Valley are True Blue, hard working, loyal, dedicated and ready to help General Motors and this country build the cars and trucks of the future,” said Green.
Hill said he remains optimistic that Lordstown will get a product.
“Do I think there is some wiggle room? I don’t know. But, if we don’t get a new GM product, I hope they let us know sooner rather than later so we can get busy getting the facility re-purposed,” the Lordstown mayor said.
“I’ll give President Trump kudos if he can help us out,” Hill added. “I’ll give him a ‘B’ on the economy; and if he gets us a new product, I’ll raise his grade to an ‘A,’” Hill said.