Charities Brace For GM Plant Closings

The plan by General Motors (GM) to close up to five plants and lay off more than 14,000 workers in North America likely will have a significant impact on local charities in the affected regions.

Representatives of local charities including the United Way, Salvation Army, and food banks in Lordstown and Youngstown, Ohio expect plant closings in their areas to impact charitable contributions The local United Way raises about $3 million a year mostly, through small payroll deductions from employees like those at the Lordstown plant.

United Way of the Youngstown and Mahoning Valley President Robert Hannon told the Warren, Ohio-based Tribune Chronicle that half of the employees at the Lordstown plant give to the local campaign. The donations account for the largest percentage of contributions of the workplace campaign and total about $100,000 a year. He noted, however, that the focus of the workplace campaigns have been reduced due to earlier layoffs at the GM plant.

Hannon explained that when he became president of United Way in 2008, members of the local United Auto Workers (UWA) union contributed $300,000 before GM started its matching donations program. Today, United Way relies more on corporate gifts and grants for its annual campaign, which expects to reach a goal of $3 million this year, according to the report. The gradual elimination of shifts over the years – from three to one – led the charity to expect the ultimate closing of the plant, he told the publication.

Shuttering of the plant also would cause a loss of volunteers. During the annual Day of Caring about 50 workers from the Lordstown plant would help clean up neighborhoods in Youngstown and the rest of the year they would assist in periodic projects, Hannon said.

With the loss of jobs, nonprofits such as the United Way will have to pivot from giving to supporting. After the plant is closed in March, United Way will go from having more than 1,000 workers donating money and time to that same number of people perhaps needing assistance.

The United Way also provides funds to Easter Seals of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana Counties. The plant loss could mean that Easter Seals might need more funding to assist the laid-off workers. One major project of the charity is to help people pay insurance deductibles if they can’t afford them.

The Salvation Army in Warren, Ohio expects to raise $110,000 during this year’s Red Kettle Campaign. Capt. Chris Williams of the Warren Corps Salvation Army forecasted that the closing of the GM plant in Lordstown could negatively affect donations but isn’t sure if the decline will hurt donations during the current Christmas season. Second Harvest Food Bank of Mahoning Valley is bracing for the potential onslaught of laid-off workers.

UAW Local 1112 still plans to continue its charitable campaigns. In 2017, members of the union gave more than $1 million to local charities and it plans to distribute 400 food baskets.