Despite bad year, local UAW still helps

Annual Care and Share event feeds 300 families

LORDSTOWN — In a year that has brought great change to the Valley’s United Auto Workers union, UAW Local 1112 was still giving to the community Saturday at its annual “Care and Share” event at the union hall.

As it has for the last three decades, Local 1112 supplied holiday meals for about 300 families of the union and greater community through the efforts of about 50 General Motors Lordstown employees packing and unpacking groceries, including turkeys and potatoes, and piling boxes of canned, dried and boxed food into vehicles.

Despite the expected “unallocation” of the plant in March, many said they have a lot to be be thankful for, including their union brothers and sisters.

“I am thankful for this union,” Casey Waldrof, an 18-year employee of GM said. “We take care of them, they take care of us.” His friend and fellow Lordstown resident Charity Gaves came with him to the event to give back, they said.

The duo was busy moving boxes through the line, cheerfully telling stories with co-workers and sporting union and Christmas attire.

“We hope everybody gets behind us and we can all stay here,” Waldrof said. “We gottta work together to get through this.”

Some workers said they were looking to possibly move in the new year to take advantage of openings at other GM plants.

“I have put in for transfers. I have a wife and a 16-year old son. I have to be concerned as to how to put food on the table, though I would like to stay here,” said Russ Pinkard, who has worked at the GM plant for 23 years.

Pinkard said he comes out to the food distribution every year.

“It’s always good to give back. I hope they find the funds to continue this, even to help our own members who have been laid off,” he said.

Pinkard said despite the future uncertainty, this area is home to him, his wife and son. He hopes to return here to retire, he said.

“It’s not just about the GM workers,” said David Green, president of UAW Local 1112, noting recent news of lost labor would affect union and non-union workers alike, from businesses to local school children.

Green has been reading community letters sent in the past weeks to GM upper management. On behalf of area workers and their families, many were written by people not connected directly to the plant who have expressed their concern and sadness. The children, especially, get it, he said, realizing the loss of friends and classmates.

Green said the food distribution event has offered the chance to bring people together during this tough year.

“I feel honored that I can represent the team here,” he said. “I think 2019 is going to be a very difficult year for all of us, but we are up to the challenge.”

He said he is hopeful that after the company makes an announcement, the union will be able to give out food again. He said he believes there is a moral obligation for a company to recognize the need to be a good corporate neighbor.

“You can’t just come in and pull out and leave people’s lives disrupted,” Green said.

Other union members agreed the charity was evidence of the community that still exists among the workers.

“This care and share program is the main charity we do,” said Russ Sigworth, community service chair and communications representative of Local 1112.

Following the 300 families served Saturday, the remaining food supplies would be given to the Warren Family Mission and the Youngstown Rescue Mission, Green said.

Jim Devlin has worked at GM almost 39 years and was there when the Care and Share event started as a chairman of the local’s services committee. He said the charity has long been a function of the union,which has always supported their members.

“We used to get truckloads of food we unloaded by hand,” he said. “We give back to the community because people still need help.”