New book documents shutdown of GM Lordstown plant through the eyes of its workers

Local News

LaToya Ruby Frazier spent nine months documenting the workers and their families

LORDSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The front cover of a book recently published by LaToya Ruby Frazier was shot from a helicopter two days after the final vehicle rolled off the assembly line at the General Motors Lordstown plant.

Of the 3,000 photos taken by Frazier on the closing of the plant, one of the last Cruze surrounded by the people who drove it off the line and into the parking lot is among her favorites.

“I’m several thousand feet in the air, hovering above it with a 600 mm lens, hanging out the side of the helicopter,” she said.

Frazier spent nine months documenting the workers and their families.

One photo shows Kesha Scales tearing up while hugging co-worker Beverly Williams. Another is of paint shop worker Vickie Raymond sitting on a bed in her parents’ home. There’s also one of the union women’s committee praying before a meeting.

Frazier is from Pittsburgh and a family of steelworkers.

“As an artist and the stories that I like to tell working class heroes are always the theme, the content and the subject matter that I always collaborate with,” she said.

After the New York Times approved her idea of documenting the shutdown, she arrived at the United Auto Workers’ Union Hall across from the plant.

“Met Dave Green and sat down with President Dave Green at the time of Local 1112 and proposed my idea to work in-depth, intimately with him to tell the story from their perspectives and their children,” Frazier said.

The book is not just of pictures, though. A photo of Pamela Brown comes with a detailed writeup about her, as does that of retiree Louis Robinson, Jr.

Frazier also put together a traveling exhibit that is being displayed at museums all across the country.

“So this will permanently stand as a work of art that is a testament of workers as well as a workers’ monument. We can always learn this history and I think we need it now more than ever,” she said.

There have been efforts to bring the traveling exhibit to Youngstown but so far, there are no plans.

Frazier said she never made it inside the plant — General Motors would not allow her access.

The Last Cruze is 392 pages and weighs six pounds. It costs $50 and can be bought through the Renaissance Society of Chicago.

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