When the last Chevy Cruze was finished on Wednesday, a rally was held on a nearby corner in support of the people who built the car — but have now lost their jobs.
The last Chevy Cruze’s trip down the assembly line has been well-documented on social media ever since the process started on Friday. First in the fabrication plant, then paint and on Wednesday, it was assembled.
About 150 people — mostly GM Lordstown employees — gathered after work on Wednesday afternoon on the Bailey Road Bridge next to the plant. It’s the same corner Werner Lange has occupied for the past 43 days — his way of showing support to the Lordstown workers.
“We took up a little collection at our union meeting. I want to make sure you have that with you. I know you’re not out here for money,” UAW Local 1112 President Dave Green told him.
“We can turn what looks like an American tragedy into an American triumph,” Lange said.
As the last Cruze worked its way through the plant, pictures were posted, showing the car as it progressed down the line.
Mark Franko posed for a picture along the trim line and later carried an American flag at the rally.
“This was announced way back in November, but the reality finally set in today and a lot of people were very emotional about it,” he said.
“It’s just gut-wrenching,” Green said. “It’s very sad as our members put down their last tools for that last day. It’s very difficult for them.”
One woman joining the rally noticed an acquaintance and settled into a long embrace, almost as if they didn’t want to let go.
Former State Senator Capri Cafaro showed up and after hugging Union President Dave Green, wiped away tears.
“This plant is part of our community. It’s part of who we are. It’s been here for 50 years, multiple generations,” she said.
Throughout the rally, there was a symphony of car horns — a demonstration of support from people passing by.
Most everyone paused for a moment when a truck carrying ten new Cruzes left the plant, headed to consumers across America.
“We’ve achieved every goal they’ve asked us to achieve and they’ve given us no reason why they’re closing our plant,” Mark Morehead said.
“I just want to thank [CEO] Mary Barra for kind of ruining everybody’s lives here,” Eric Childers said. “We did everything we were supposed to do — build cars, 100 percent. Nothing but good, but everything goes to Mexico. That’s all I can say.”
At one point, the crowd blocked Bailey Road, not allowing southbound traffic to pass by. The show of defiance lasted only a few minutes — and the crowd retreated back to the side of the road.
“The Local’s going to continue to stay open. We’ll be open all year,” Green said. “I’ve told people our transition center’s going to be open, we’re there to help people.”
Around 2:30 p.m., the last Cruze came off the line in time for one more picture with everyone gathered around it — many of them perhaps with thoughts about what tomorrow will bring.
Green said there are about 2,000 people who are still out of work, who have been laid off as late as 2017 and as early as next week.
“[They] are going to be out there, trying to decide what they’re going to do with their lives.”
Not everyone was laid off on Wednesday. People in materials will work the next two days and the fabrication plant will stay open another couple of weeks, making spare parts for the Cruze.