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Women’s work at GM plant honored

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple A tribute to women workers was held at the General Motors Lordstown plant on Friday. From left are GM workers Sherry Farley of Fowler and Vickie Raymond of Hanoverton, community activist Werner Lange of Newton Falls and his wife, Roxanne Lange, and GM worker Charmaine Reiter of Austintown. The group was singing a song in tribute to women workers.

LORDSTOWN — In honor of International Women’s Day, individuals gathered at the Lordstown General Motors plant to celebrate the women who worked at the plant and to erect a shrine of hope for all of those who have lost their jobs because of the plant’s idling Wednesday.

“Today, March 8, we celebrate the ladies of the Lordstown plant,” said Roxanne Lange, one of the organizers of the event. “We celebrate these women and all women today for their remarkable contributions to our community and to our society.”

Workers gathered at the western complex entrance of the plant to place solar lights and tie yellow ribbons on several structures.

“We’re here also to try and use this occasion to keep hope alive and erect a shrine of hope for a continuation for the proud legacy of GM Lordstown workers,” said Werner Lange, community activist and organizer.

“May the lights of the workers, especially the women, continue to shine on,” Werner Lange said as women set up the solar lights.

The solar lights and yellow ribbons placed on a nearby tree symbolize hope and the coming of a new day for the community, said Werner Lange.

“This year of 2019 which, on this day, is not the end, as the sign says, but a birth of a new beginning of this plant. We intend to keep hope alive, and we have erected this shrine of hope where people can come 24/7 for the next several months before a new product is delivered to GM,” he said.

For many workers, Friday was a day of grief because it was the last official day of work at the plant.

“It was very emotional, and I felt as if I needed to be out here to recognize all the women that have worked here previously,” said Charmaine Reiter as she held back tears.

This is the second GM plant where Reiter has worked that has been shut down. She’s worked at Lordstown for nine years and has been a GM employee for 22 years.

“I find strength in my coworkers,” Reiter said. “It seems like when one of us is feeling low, the rest of us will pick them up, and my friends here have done that for me.”

Vickie Raymond, of Hanoverton, has worked at GM for 24 years and said this has been a long and tough week for many people at the plant.

“I’ve been out here 43 years, my family has lived out in this community and I’m looking at having to relocate,” Raymond said. “Hoping, praying that GM will bring a product to us. We’ve built good, quality cars. It never stopped from the day we were told we were going to idle this plant; we got right back out there and continued to build 450 cars a shift.”

Raymond doesn’t know exactly what she’s going to do next but is going to take some time to figure out what her next moves will be.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Raymond said. “I’m going to wait and see what the contract might hold. Maybe a month we’ll get some more answers, maybe another month some more answers. Just waiting it out for a little bit. I’m going to maybe attend school, see what’s out there. I have no idea. I’ve been with GM for 24 years; that’s all I know, is to build cars. I’m just going to take some time and think about it.”

“This is not a funeral, this is a resurrection ceremony of this plant which is now in a coma, induced by corporate greed,” Werner Lange said. “We know the power of resurrection, the power of the people, the power of the loving God is greater then any of the corporate greed by officials in Detroit or anywhere else, and we shall overcome it.”

Also in honor of GM workers, the Drive It Home Ohio campaign encouraged people to participate in True Blue Friday where people were encouraged to wear blue, according to a press release by Drive It Home. Churches also were asked to ring their bells at 3 p.m., including the Lordstown Christian Church.

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