COLUMBUS, Ohio– On Wednesday, with dignity and uncertainty, the workers of Lordstown Assembly Plant assembled their last vehicle. The plant will still make certain parts but the Chevy Cruze, which had been produced and assembled at the plant since 2011, will no longer be produced in Ohio.
As previously reported, in November of last year General Motors, the plant’s current operators, announced that five plants across America would be permanently shut down, or, as they referred to it in their public statement:”unallocated.” The plan was met with immediate backlash. President Donald Trump personally decried the decision, demanding that GM find a way to keep these plants open.
After months of failed negotiations between GM, the federal government, the Ohio state government, labor leaders, national unions, and other car manufacturers, GM officially began their mass layoffs on February 5. Wednesday, Lordstown became the first of the five plants to cease operations. Almost all of the 1,700 employees have been, or will be, laid off.
GM maintains that the plant will remain in a “state of readiness” should they find cause to reopen it for a new operator. However, this remains unlikely. GM has made it clear that its future with the plant is over. The Lordstown plant workers are currently represented by UAW Local 1112, which means that any potential buyer would have to agree to the demands of the union. At least one major auto manufacturer may have been scared off due to these ties. With no buyer in place, concerns abound about the local town’s future.
Since its opening in 1966, Lordstown, Ohio has been the backbone of the local economy. Providing plentiful high-paying jobs, working at the plant ensured, at a minimum, a direct entree to the middle-class regardless of education level. Thousands of workers were employed by the plant at its peak. Over time those numbers dropped to below 2,000.
Debate rages on what exactly is killing plants like Lordstown. Many individuals point to automation and workers being replaced by robots. Should this be the case, there was little any worker could do to keep the plant going. However, this argument is belied by the fact that the Chevy Cruze will still be produced, just not in America. GM manufacturing in China, Mexico, and other overseas locations was not affected by the layoffs. In fact, some overseas plants will be growing.
There are still ongoing negotiations and some hold out hope that the plant can still be saved in some form, but most employees will be forced to move on. When the last vehicle was being assembled, all the workers present signed a section of the interior. When it rolled off the line, it was draped in an American flag that, for many, felt hauntingly reminiscent of a funeral.
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