WARREN, Ohio — Approximately 2,000 steel, auto, electrical, public and other workers and their families from throughout the Mahoning Valley rallied here May 2 to demand protection from the growing economic crisis.
Angry at massive downsizing by area companies, including Copperweld, Delphi, GM, Severstahl and others, labor, community and religious leaders and public officials, including Congressman Tim Ryan, expressed hope that President Barack Obama would take steps to fix the economy.
“We need another government transformation before it’s too late,” Ryan said, citing reforms of the 1930s New Deal and the 1960s Great Society.
He called for passage of universal health care, the Employee Free Choice Act, universal quality education, bankruptcy reform, raising the average wage and changing trade agreements. “We have the opportunity to revolutionize our country again.”
Courtney Price, a recent college graduate and African American, told the crowd that “the American dream has been snatched from the lives of young people.” She had been “brought up in the middle class economy” and both her parents had worked at GM.
“We need jobs we can live on,” she said. “The military should not be the only option.”
Jim Graham, president of Local 1112 at the Lordstown GM plant and one of the key organizers of the rally, echoed her alarm.
“Jobs are hemorrhaging from this country,” he said. “Barack Obama had fifty tons of garbage dumped on his doorstep by the Bush administration.” With the loss of 600,000 jobs in March, “there are now more people unemployed than working in manufacturing.”
“What will fix the economy?” demanded Gary Steinbeck, staff representative with the United Steelworkers. “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” he shouted and the crowd repeated the cry.
Jay Bice, retired engineer and leader of the Delphi Salaried Workers Association, blasted “corporations lying to us and cheating us out of our pensions and health care benefits.”
He said the government must provide defense not only from foreign threats, but “from our own domestic corporations.” He said that after 25 years at Delphi, his job was sent to Mexico. His wife has a heart condition and it is a struggle to buy food, medicine and every day purchases.
“They are taking away the benefits we worked for and taking our tax money for bailouts,” he said. “We are asking government officials to go to work for us now. No one is handing us golden parachutes. We just want what was promised.”
“We worked long hard hours and now we see these companies default on deferred compensation. Stop these corporations when they halt our benefits,” he said to loud cheers.
This was only the first of many rallies on the economic crisis being planned around the country, Graham said.