General Motors may have given up on Lordstown, Ohio, but the town’s kids haven’t given up on General Motors.
Students in the Youngstown suburb are writing letters to GM execs in Detroit, part of a community-wide effort to get the automaker to change its mind about closing its plant there.
“Lordstown doesn’t have much, but they have GM, and they depend on it,” student Jimmy Moyers told CNN affiliate WEWS.
The letter-writing campaign is part of “Drive It Home,” a collaboration between GM workers, local families, union members, business leaders and elected officials dedicated to saving the 6.2 million-square-foot plant in northeast Ohio. The Lordstown plant has been in operation since 1966, pumping out about 16 million vehicles. It currently makes the Chevy Cruze sedan.
Union leaders and local officials hope they can convince GM to reverse course and slot another vehicle for the plant before the facility is idled.
A thousand letters
But GM plans to shutter the plant in March, part of a major restructuring announced late last month that will see the automaker close down five North American factories and cut jobs.
So the Lordstown Local School District hopes to persuade GM to reconsider by having students write letters. It hopes to write a thousand letters — all addressed to GM CEO Mary Barra — by the end of the week. The local branch of the United Auto Workers plans to hand-deliver the letters to GM headquarters in Detroit.
Students would be impacted just as hard by the plant’s closure as adults, said a teacher who has read some of the letters.
“Kids are worried about if they are going to have a Christmas this year,” teacher Alyssa Brookbank told WEWS. “Are we going to be able to take a family vacation? To kids, that means the world. Seeing this in the eyes of a child gives a whole different perspective.”
Even children who are still learning to write are taking part. Students in kindergarten through second grade created a banner emblazoned with their handprints, a drawing of Santa Claus driving a Chevy Cruze and the words “Christmas Wish.”
CNN has reached out to GM for comment.
In a statement on the plant closings last month, GM spokesman Pat Morrissey said, “GM is committed to maintaining a strong manufacturing presence in the U.S.,” adding, “Many of the U.S. workers impacted by these actions will have the opportunity to shift to other GM plants where we will need more employees to support growth in trucks, crossovers and SUVs.”
Plant has been here before
This isn’t the first time that the GM plant in Lordstown, which has about 4,000 residents, has faced closure.
GM seriously considered scuttling the plant in 2002 during an earlier consolidation effort. Back in April, GM cut 1,500 jobs at the plant, taking the factory — which operated 24 hours a day as recently as 2016 — down to a single daily shift.
After more than half a century in Lordstown, GM has become a foundational part of the local economy, even though the number of employees at the plant has been reduced over the years. Presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton, courting swing-state voters, made campaign stops there in 2008.
Dave Green, president of UAW Local 1112, told CNN the union is hopeful the “Drive It Home” campaign will persuade GM to make another vehicle in Lordstown.
“We are determined to do everything we can to convince General Motors to make Lordstown part of the future of auto manufacturing for this great company that we have been like family with for 52 years,” Green said in a statement last month.