AFT President Randi Weingarten and presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders shared the stage April 14 in Lordstown, Ohio, together condemning the corporate greed—and the Trump administration behind it—that drove the General Motors plant closure there. “We need to make the connection about how this hurts children,” said Sanders, referring to the devastation families have experienced since GM took thousands of jobs from Lordstown and moved them to Mexico. “We need to talk about how this connects to communities.”
The town hall-style gathering was the first in a series of AFT Votes events designed to connect presidential candidates to AFT members around the country, to help candidates learn more about our members’ lives, hopes and struggles. AFT Votes is part of an extended endorsement process leading up to the 2020 elections.
Before the town hall meeting, Sanders met with members of the Lordstown Teachers Association; he also spent time with high school social studies students and their teacher, talking about the value of preserving democracy. At the town hall, Sanders voiced strong support for public education and the educators who make it work: “We have to respect teachers, and teachers deserve decent pay,” he said.
“I am impressed with what he had to say about funding education, prekindergarten all the way through college,” said LTA President Alyssa Brookbank. “Knowing he supports education and our students and our families, that means a lot.”
“Elections are about choices, and I’m really glad Bernie Sanders is here,” Weingarten told the enthusiastic crowd in the Lordstown High School auditorium. “He’s on the side of workers and fights for good jobs. He’s on the side of students and fights for free college. He’s on the side of families and fights for Medicare for All.”
Much of the event focused on the impact of the GM plant closure in Lordstown. In addition to losing 1,400 automotive industry jobs, the community is expected to experience the loss of some 43,000 other jobs, from restaurant workers to grocery store clerks, car dealership employees and even school personnel, who may feel the impact of schools losing students because their families are moving away. “When a plant closes, those who have lost jobs need to find work wherever they can, often far from home,” said Weingarten. “That means, in the middle of the school year, families are pulled apart and students’ lives are turned upside down.”
“I say to Donald Trump, tell General Motors if they want to receive another government contract they need to reopen plants in Lordstown, Ohio, and other parts of the country where American workers have seen their jobs eliminated,” said Sanders, who also criticized Trump over the government shutdown and family separations at the border.
“Trump tries to divide people,” he said. “He does it based on race, national origin, sexual orientation and more. Our job is to do the opposite and bring people together.
“We are fighting for the future of our country. We’re fighting for the future of our children.”