Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Uses Lordstown to Go After President Trump

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

We’ve spent a good deal of time on the blog the past several weeks talking about Lordstown, the infamous General Motors plant that shut down in March, leading to 1,400 layoffs.

Now it looks like Lordstown is becoming an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders — who is considered one of the party’s frontrunners for the nomination, at least as much as there can be a frontrunner at this point — visited Lordstownlast week. And over the weekend, the Vermont senator dropped a new digital campaign ad about the Lordstown closure in which he takes direct aim at President Trump.

The Sanders ad, titled “Lordstown Tough,” features Chuckie Denison, a third-generation GM worker who worked at Lordstown and other GM facilities. Denison is backing Sanders in the race — a given, since he’s in an ad for the guy — but Denison spends a good chunk of the ad talking about Trump.

“Trump lied to Ohio. … He came to this area and told people, ‘Do not sell your homes, I’m bringing the jobs back.’ And weeks after that, is when they announced the plant closing,” Denison says.*

Denison continues: “He came here and lied to these people. I didn’t buy it, but many people did because they were hanging on to hope. They were hoping that he would do something, but he did the opposite.”

The ad also features clips of Sanders, who calls out Trump for granting GM federal contracts despite the fact that the company is shipping production overseas.

“Today, I say to Donald Trump, ‘You know, you are a really tough guy… well, let’s see how tough you are. Tell General Motors today, no more federal contracts until they deal with Lordstown. Let’s see how tough you are,’” Sanders says.

This is probably a good time to remind everyone that the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is a nonpartisan organization, and we don’t endorse or take sides in any campaign, whether it’s the presidential contest or a local city council race.

But we did find it noteworthy that Sanders is using Lordstown to go after Trump. And frankly, it makes sense.

Trump rode into office in 2016 pledging to bring back factory jobs, and he’s especially fond of using the auto industry as part of his rhetoric. After all, people sometimes have a hard time understanding the way big industry works, but lots of people own an automobile. It’s accessible.

Things had been going good for Trump on the factory job front, too. There were 284,000 new factory jobs created in 2018, something that the White House has been more than happy to take credit for.

But GM’s decision to close Lordstown has been a blow. The manufacturing sector lost 6,000 jobs in March as a direct result of the Lordstown shutdown.

Even more than that, it’s the symbolic nature of the closure that stings.

Despite the fact that Trump came to nearby Youngstown and told people that “we’re going to fill up those factories or rip them down and build brand new ones,” GM still opted to close the plant.

Despite the fact that Trump tweeted out his disappointment, GM still opted to close the plant.

And Sanders stepped in to remind everyone of that fact.

There’s still a long way to go until Democrats pick their eventual nominee, and an even longer way to go until the presidential contest is decided. It is foolhardy at this point to make predictions about what might happen.

But the Sanders ad could be a sign of how the race will play out. To win back the White House, Trump will likely need to win manufacturing states that helped him carry the day in 2016, including Ohio. And the eventual Democratic nominee will also likely need to pick up some of those states, too.

These issues aren’t going away. People in Ohio (and Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and other places) remain concerned about the availability of good paying jobs, and factory closures like what happened in Lordstown hit home for a lot of people. As Denison says in the Sanders ad: “It’s not only devasting to the employees who work for that plant, but the families, it effects the whole entire area. Tax revenue, infrastructure, down to the schools. Even the little children in school, their best friends disappear because they’re uprooted and have to move.”

And that's the sort of thing voters think about when they head into the election booth.

*Fact check: Trump’s speech referenced in the ad took place in July 2017, and GM announced they were idling Lordstown in June 2018.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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