Earlier this month, in Cincinnati, President Trump said, “Ohio is the most successful it's ever been in the history of our country.” I could not help but laugh. I worked for General Motors for 12 years and a few months ago, I was making more than $30 per hour at GM’s Lordstown plant. Now, I am going to school to be an HVAC technician where I will make $15 per hour.

GM runs in my bloodline. My father was a GM worker. So was my uncle and my cousin, and I, too, remain passionate about auto work. The area surrounding Lordstown is home to hard-working and close-knit people, but many of us in the Mahoning Valley already feel beat down.

When GM shut down its Lake Orion, Mich., plant in 2009, I transferred to the Lordstown plant and made Ohio my home.

The day after Thanksgiving last year, I found out the Lordstown plant was closing. I was not surprised — the writing was on the wall when GM started to reduce our shifts; the same thing happened when the Lake Orion plant closed. Most shocking was the pace at which GM executed the closing of the Lordstown plant — a plant that has been in our community for 53 years.

My coworkers and I received letters from GM that gave us the option of working at a plant more than nine hours away. We had five days to respond or we would lose our sub pay and health insurance. Many employees were forced to sell their homes, and others made the painful decision to leave their families in Ohio while they work hundreds of miles away. I declined the offer because I couldn’t leave my young daughter behind.

On the campaign trail, Trump said he had driven through our beautiful roads and bemoaned that jobs had left Ohio. He told autoworkers, “If I’m elected, you won’t lose one plant, you’ll have plants coming into this country, you’re going to have jobs again, you won’t lose one plant, I promise you that.” My friends and colleagues believed him.

President Trump told us at a rally in Youngstown not to sell our houses and to stay put, but I am selling my house, and many of us have been put in a position where we can’t afford to stay — thousands of people have already left our community. I had no option but to start over with a new trade where I will be making one-third of what I was making at GM.

Trump focused his campaign on American manufacturing. He said the new tax bill was supposed to encourage businesses to invest in American workers. Since he was elected and the tax bill was passed, our shifts have been cut, and thousands of auto workers have been laid off.

GM has used the massive windfall it received from the new tax law to buy back more stocks and expand production abroad while shutting multiple plants in North America.

It turns out when people said Trump’s tax bill would incentivize companies to invest overseas, they were right. Almost all of the investment from American companies since has gone outside the country, and almost nothing here.

The economic devastation of GM’s departure affects our entire community, and surrounding communities, for generations. Local businesses that have been here for decades have shut their doors because it does not make financial sense to stay here. Small business is at the economic heart of America. If we don't have them, what do we have?

Trump continues to tweet about our nation’s economic success, even as fears of a recession increase. He touted at a rally in Ohio that “our spirit is strong, our stride is back, and our stand is clear, we are finally putting America first,” but all I’ve experienced are higher taxes, the closure of the plant where I had worked for almost a decade, and possible bankruptcy. His policies are causing irreparable damage to the very same people he campaigned to help.

President Trump, you said you were going to protect American workers and bring jobs back to the Rust Belt. If you meant it, now is the time to act.

 

DeGarmo lives in North Jackson. He is a proud father and former GM employee. He is currently working as an HVAC repair trainee.