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It’s up to us to protect future

In what has become commonplace in corporate America, General Motors once again, undeniably, demonstrated it will always put corporate interests and executive bonuses over the stability of our community and the families who have served it for decades.

Shortly before Christmas, GM CEO Mary Barra openly admitted she and the corporation are using the threat of job losses to ensure a stronger negotiating position during upcoming contract talks. To anyone who is familiar with union contract negotiations, this came as no surprise; however, it is an extreme low to give individuals the ultimatum of losing their livelihoods or agreeing to any and all demands made by GM management.

Unfortunately, this is only the most recent in a string of body blows our community has taken over the last few decades due to corporate hostilities toward the workers who have diligently served them. Being an educator who teaches individuals how to start, run and manage businesses, I firmly understand the need for balance of power between workers and management, but what these companies are doing is strong-arming hard-working people into competing for jobs with workers whose living standards and costs are much lower than even those of northeast Ohio. I could even understand the need for drastic cost-cutting to keep the business in the black, but GM is not in that situation. In fact, this year, General Motors’ profits ranged in the billions; therefore, this is one more demonstration of a lack of concern for the average worker.

My advice for any GM employee is, even if the plant remains open after March, consider your options. If big business is going to continue to treat us with such hostility, we need to consider how long we will continue to live in fear of the day they come in and take everything from us. I tell my students every day that corporate America is not going to swoop in to save Warren, Ohio; we must do it ourselves. This is why I teach entrepreneurship. Until we are self-reliant, we will always be dictated to as pawns in a game of lives.

Rick Stockburger at TBEIC, Warren’s business incubator, is currently working on a program called Factories to Founders in order to train people who’ve lost jobs due to downsizing, plant closures or simple unemployment to start their own small businesses. Through this program, you will get assistance in determining if your business idea is viable and what you need to do to get it off the ground. There are many organizations connected to this project whose only mission is to help individuals start small businesses in the Mahoning Valley. However, this is not just limited to those who have lost jobs, so if you are seriously considering taking the step of starting your own business, this program is for you.

If you love Warren and the Mahoning Valley like I do, you hate to see these institutions that have been part of our community for decades leave hard-working people behind in the wake of their pursuits of higher and higher profit margins, but it’s simply outside of our control. What is in our control is how we respond. Are we going to sit and cry because they took their business elsewhere, or are we going to say OK and chart a path forward, which will ensure that doesn’t happen to us again?

The only thing that is going to stabilize our community is local people investing locally because no one cares more than we do. It’s time we take care of ourselves and control our own destinies. Give Rick a call at 330-770-9489 to find out how to start your own business and ensure corporate America can’t ever leave you helpless again.

Mach is the 7th Ward Warren city councilman.

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