Sharing Foxholes

Local Lordstown, Ohio GM workers had joined other GM plants for the strike that just ended. These local workers manned five picket gates at their plant. They did that even though their factory was slated as one of the plants GM has closed. A local group of non-violent peace activists including members of Occupy Youngstown and the Youngstown Workers Solidarity Club spent a few hours a week on the line with them. GM workers were happy to see folks from the community joining them in solidarity. It was also nice to see so many area restaurants bringing the striking workers food. It was informative to talk to the strikers and interesting to hear their individual stories. Stories about families being in disarray because so many workers had to relocate to other GM plants across the country. Then there were the stories of workers who didn’t have enough time to retire or transfer.

These stories weren’t at the heart of what national newspapers and other media wanted to hear. The national media wanted to know why some of these workers had voted for Trump. They wanted to know how these workers felt now that Trump had not been able to save their plant. These are the same “big city” media that arrived in Trumbull County after the 2016 presidential election. They wanted to know why Trumbull County had voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton. After all, this was a county that could be counted on to always back the Democrat candidate for president. Now, the national news media was at the Lordstown GM gates asking strikers about Trump once again.

The Boston Globe is one of these “big city” newspapers that came to talk to striking Lordstown workers. They hit their pay dirt when they talked to disabled GM retiree, Bob Meyer who is loyal to Trump. Bob told the Globe that, “Trump is a welcome antidote to the political correctness he loathes.” He continued, “So many people are getting offended by anything and everything. It wasn’t a bunch of wusses that made this country great.” A good follow up might have been asking Bob why working-class voters like him are buying into a culture war, instead of problems of economic inequity and the need for an affordable healthcare system for our citizens? Surely, a disabled retiree like Meyer should care about healthcare. As far as a wussie, I’d ask Bob, “Why would you consider any president who verbally mocked people like; a reporter with arthrogryposis, (a condition which limits the movement of joints), POW John McCain and a Gold Star soldier’s family anything but a  lowly wussie coward?”

The Boston Globe talked to Lisa Himes, a former GM worker, and her brother, Bill Brown, 61, who is retired from the plant.  Both of them voted for Trump in 2016. They said their votes for Trump were not just about the economy. They stated, “Gun rights, you’ve got these guys that want to be girls, girls that want to be guys,” Brown said, ticking off the reasons for Trump’s cultural appeal. “He’s trying to make the US a better place; he’s trying to build that wall.” Himes added, “She and her brother were Americans, “born and raised here.” The NRA has been saying that the Democrats are coming for your guns for decades now. I’d say if that is true the Democrats have been doing a really slow and bad job of it. Bill and Lisa have also bought into the culture war. They might be Americans now but I guess they forgot that their relatives emigrated here from some other country at one point. They both talk of their privileges. I guess they forgot that GM is the one closing factories and taking away jobs not illegal immigrants. Banks are “too big to fail” and immigrants are coming here willing to work hard so they don’t fail. As far as bashing gays, some of the community activists that joined striking workers on the picket line are gay. You never know where your help might come from. It’s sad to see the Lisas and Bobs of the world be so easily divided like the powers that be want them to be.

Brown made better sense when he stated he voted for Trump because Trump opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. It was Bill Clinton who helped pass this bill that was wanted by GOP politicians for years. Workers opposed to NAFTA as strong as Brown weren’t about to vote for Hillary Clinton who supported it and other such trade bills. Perhaps, he should have voted for Bernie Sanders who opposed such trade deals. That wouldn’t be the case for workers like, Tim Schwanger. “I don’t think things have gotten better here under Trump,” said Tim Schwanger, a former employee of the plant who voted for him 2016, and said he was open to doing so again. “I cannot vote for a socialist government,” he said.

Tim needs to also know that a good many of the community protestors who came to support strikers would consider themselves socialists. These socialists would point out that it was the capitalist CEO’s at GM that closed the Lordstown plant. They might also point out that it was a socialist bailout by taxpayers that saved GM to begin with. I wish that we could have extended that socialism into giving the auto plants to the workers. Better them than the CEO’s that drove the companies into bankruptcy to begin with. I believe workers would think about long-term ideas and not be focused on short-term profits.

How do we get there from here?  We need to remember that only 30% of GM workers at Lordstown voted for Trump. That seems to be the only percent of workers that “big city” newspapers want to come here and talk with. The answer to getting that 30% to want something better than Trump was provided by the Boston Globe.  It was in something they noticed in Meyer when they interviewed him.  The Boston Globe stated, “Meyer talks economics like Warren or Sanders, his loyalties are now firmly ensconced with Trump.”

We need to get workers like Meyer to see their very own words. That is when they will understand that candidates like Sanders and Warren are the ones aligned with their thinking, not Trump. They also need to remember that Trump said he was going to save their jobs at the Lordstown plant. Instead of pointing fingers at immigrants, gays, minorities etc. workers need to be like the military. By that I mean we need to realize that we are on the same side in this economic war. We need to put our differences aside and realize we are all in the same foxhole.  That’s the kind of solidarity that wins not just battles but wars.

The Nightwatchman: “Union Song”

Mike Stout: “Time to Build a New World”

The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings. Albert Schweitzer


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