Union rallies, urges president to protect jobs

WARREN — Union members and Democrats have a message for President Donald Trump: pick up your pen and sign an executive order to stop federal contractors from outsourcing jobs.

Members of the United Auto Workers Local 1112 and the Communication Workers of America, along with state senators and representatives, rallied at the UAW Local 1112 Hall, where they said Trump is just continuing a trend of tax breaks for corporations that is shattering the American dream. The rally was a stop on Good Jobs Nation’s “Promises Broken Midwest Pickup Tour” who united with workers from General Motors and AT&T.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said the region already has been hit by the collapse of the steel industry and now it is happening again to the automobile industry and call centers. Trump promised to be a champion for workers and to stop offshoring jobs, she said, but instead of punishing corporations that ship jobs overseas, they have been awarded billions of dollars in lucrative federal contracts.

More than 20,000 jobs in Ohio have been lost and shipped overseas since Trump took office, Lepore-Hagan said.

“The president is selling America to those who don’t even care about the American dream and it’s becoming an American nightmare,” she said.

AT&T Youngstown call center worker Brandon Kirnec, a member of the Communication Workers of America, said 12,000 call center jobs have been eliminated from AT&T since 2011. Kirnec, who works 10-hour days, said every day he wonders if his job will be next.

Kirnec said it is time for Trump to be held to his promises and for him to stand up for local communities and workers.

“A few months ago, they closed a center in Harrisburg, Pa.,” Kirnec said. “We were overwhelmed by the calls they sent to us. Morale sank and people were stressed out, but the company did not care. They treat us like numbers they add or subtract to a bill. It’s frustrating to know that our taxpayer dollars are supporting offshore jobs. It’s frustrating that our government uses our hard-earned money to help them boost their profits while workers suffer.”

State Rep. John Boccieri, D-Poland, said it’s time to elect politicians who will fight for jobs because it is a matter of economic and national security. Boccieri said he and Lepore-Hagan are sponsoring legislation that removes corporate tax breaks in Ohio for companies that move jobs overseas.

“No more great opportunities for you to pad the pockets of your preferred stockholders and the board of directors and the like,” Boccieri said. “It’s time we fight for working folks.”

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, a retired UAW member and autoworker, said the Mahoning Valley knows how to take a punch, but it would be nice to have someone from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. fighting for and with the Valley. Conservatives are supposedly concerned about being fiscally conservative, yet tax breaks given to corporations will add several trillion dollars to the national deficit, he said.

“Who benefits from those tax breaks?” Franklin said. “Certainly not the 3,000 people who lost their jobs here. I think it makes more sense to tie those tax cuts to your ability to bring those jobs you outsourced back to our country.”

Trumbull County Republican Party Chairman Kevin Wyndham did not return a call seeking comment, but Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe said the issues the region faces are of a local nature and not a national one.

“The president is doing his job and we’ve got the strongest economy probably in the history of the country,” Munroe said. “Unemployment for blacks, women, hispanics, young people, everybody, is at an all-time low.”

There have been Republican and Democratic presidents for the past 20 years, Munroe said. The bigger question, Munroe said, is what has Tim Ryan, the Democratic congressman who represents the Mahoning Valley, been doing for the past 20 years?

“We’ve got issues in the Valley, but many of those issues center around corruption and an unhealthy economic environment for business. For example, the president of the United States has got no control over how many people buy Chevy Cruzes, but he’s done his part to support a strong national economy.”

Munroe said companies are bringing back jobs under the leadership of Trump and tax breaks are helping everyone.