It’s Christmastime in Lordstown, but all is not merry. The largest employer in the northeast Ohio town, the sprawling GM plant, will shut down in a couple of months, a victim of General Motor’s major restructuring plan. That would be a devastating blow to the community of 4,000 people.
They’re writing letters — all addressed to GM’s CEO — in a bid to change the automaker’s mind and save the factory. Their words are moving, impassioned and direct. They speak to the human cost incurred when a plant shuts down:
Fears of their parents being out of work. Worries of having to move away or watching friends or relatives leave town. Concern that their families won’t have a Christmas this year.
Terry Armstrong, superintendent of the 600-pupil Lordstown Local School District, shared some of the letters with CNN, and he marveled at the students’ compassion.
“So many (of the letters) are just heart-wrenching,” Armstrong told CNN. “Reading about the empathy so many of the students have for their classmates touches your heart.”
A high schooler named Alexis fears she and her family will have to move from Lordstown — right smack in the middle of her senior year — if the GM plant closes as scheduled in March. Her mother has worked at the plant for 27 years.
“My parents are considering uprooting our lives here and moving to Texas or Michigan,” she writes. “The possibility of moving a few months before graduation would be detrimental.”
Destini, another high school senior, worries affected families won’t be able to have a “normal” holiday season because they’ll have to save money in case they’re out of work in a couple of months. She also reminded GM of the workers’ loyalty.
“Many people have been dedicated to working at GM for years or maybe their whole lives,” she writes, “and after they have been loyal all these years, you should find a way and make it possible to keep the plant open.”
An 11th-grader named Tony told GM that the closure would not only affect the plant’s workers, but the “suppliers to the plant or even businesses surrounding it,” too.
Abigail, a fifth-grader, asked GM execs to consider the “severity” of their decision.
“(Imagine) how many jobs are at stake,” she writes. “Imagine how many lives will be destroyed. Imagine how many families are devastated.”
Sixth-grader Gabrielle called news of the plant’s closing “frightening” and also said GM is setting a bad example for her and other children.
“If you leave, your company will be setting a bad example for younger kids that are going to be running this country one day,” she writes. “They will see you quit and they will think it is okay to quit.”
Lauren, fourth grade: “It’s going to be a rough time if my closest friend is going to move.”
Alana, fifth grade: “This is alot to take in. I am constantly thinking about it. I already lost two friends when their dad lost his job at your plant. I don’t want to lose 18 more friends by moving away.”
Aliya, fifth grade: “If I move, I may not be able to play sports. I may get rejected from teams I signed up for. Please, please listen, the rest of my life is in your hands, and I want to spend it here.”
Monica, third grade: “My uncle Ricky might have to move, and my big brother Kyle might have to move, and other family members too and I would be sad if my family has to move. Because you took away jobs.”
Jon, third grade: “Our friend’s parents are losing their jobs and are sad and nervous.”
The letter-writing campaign is part of a community-wide effort to save the plant. Officials hope to get a thousand letters from students and other community members. The local branch of the United Auto Workers plans to hand-deliver the letters to GM headquarters in Detroit on Friday.