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Ahead of Trump Visit, Ohio Dems, Autoworkers Come to Wheeling to Express Disappointment With President

Two years ago, President Donald Trump told the Mahoning Valley that their dwindling jobs would be returning under his presidency, and to sit back and watch.

With General Motors’ Lordstown plant announcing its closure last November, many employees felt slighted when Trump’s response was, “It doesn’t really matter,” saying he felt Ohio would replace those jobs in a heartbeat. The plant closed in March.

GM employees met with officials from the Ohio Democratic Party Wednesday morning, hours ahead of Trump’s visit to the Friendly City, to protest their case to passersby. The protest was held in front of the Augustus Pollack memorial monument at Heritage Port, whose legacy of labor employees fell back on to draw contrast to the president.

“In Wheeling, we’re standing in front of the Augustus Pollack memorial, a business owner who succeeded by treating his workers equitably,” said Braylin Rushton, a former employee whose mother had also worked in the Lordstown plant. “That’s a lesson that Donald Trump could learn from, first as a businessman and now as the head of state. … Two years ago tomorrow, Trump gave a speech making promises to the people of Mahoning Valley, and since then, he’s broken those promises time and time again.”

Trump had come to Youngstown on July 26, 2017 for the “Rally in the Valley,” where he had said their factories would once again be full of workers, and that Ohio jobs would not be lost to hire in other countries.

“I said, those jobs have left Ohio. They’re all coming back. They’re all coming back. Don’t move, don’t sell your house,” Trump said. “After years and years of sending our jobs and wealth to other countries, we are finally standing up for our workers and for our companies.”

In December, Trump was interviewed on Fox News’ “Outnumbered Overtime” by Harris Faulkner, where he expressed disappointment that General Motors had idled, and then planned to close, the plant, but that he was unconcerned with the loss of jobs, as he felt Ohio would rebound quickly.

“It doesn’t really matter because Ohio is under my leadership from a national standpoint,” Trump said. “Ohio’s going to replace those jobs like in two minutes. But I don’t like that General Motors does that. And they’re going down to Mexico to make cars.”

Trump’s quote was on several signs held by protesters.

“I’m here today to say this: it matters. It really matters,” Rushton said. “It’s not just a slap in the face to all the loyal workers, but it’s a devastating ripple effect to all the local community, the businesses, the schools, and most importantly, the families.”

Rushton talked of how he and his mother, a longtime employee at the same plant, had been laid off in 2018 and 2019, respectively. While he took the time to continue his education, Rushton was offered the opportunity to transfer to a new job opportunity hundreds of miles away from his home.

“I received a letter to transfer nine hours away. I was faced with the dilemma of choosing between my livelihood and my education. I chose the latter; however, my mother was faced with that same decision after investing 25 years of working in this plant. About five years shy of retirement, she had to choose between uprooting away from her family and nine hours away, or losing everything she’s invested and accumulated.

“It’s been very hard for our family, as we’re very close-knit,” he said. “Donald Trump keeps making these promises, and breaking these promises, and the working people are being caught in the grind as a result.”

Ron Clark, a 38-year employee who retired in 2004, said he felt there was not enough support for unions to keep worker’s rights at the forefront of the business owners’ minds.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” Clark said. “Things were good for us, I was able to fulfill all my obligations. … The thing is, we don’t have enough people working for the unions and trying to bring unions to the forefront.

“I’ve been saddened knowing the plant was closing, and now it is closed. The people laid off will struggle to pay their bills. … Don’t think this cannot happen to you. It can. It happened to the Lordstown workers.”

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