Laid off from his job in 2017, Tommy Wolikow is waiting for Donald Trump to bring jobs back to Ohio. (ABC News: Adrian Wilson)
Tommy Wolikow has a lot of time for his nine-month-old daughter Annabella, but it’s more than he’d like.
He was retrenched from his job at the local General Motors plant almost two years ago, and he hasn’t worked since.
- Former workers at a GM factory in Ohio are struggling to find work
- Donald Trump told them ‘don’t sell your home’, jobs were coming back
- Union bosses say President Trump hasn’t kept promises
“I thought it would be temporary. I thought we’d be able to get back, but sure enough, we ended up getting laid off,” he says on a weekday afternoon at his house near Lordstown, in North Eastern Ohio.
“We’re still laid off and it’s scary now because, it doesn’t seem like I’m ever going to get back there.”
Tommy and his partner Rochelle Carlisle both lost their jobs in the layoffs. They’re struggling to keep up with their mortgage even though housing is cheap because so many people like them are leaving the area to find work.
As the last of the autumn sun sets over their home, seven-year-old Alessandra drags her bike out of the garage and rides around on the lawn.
Halloween decorations hanging from the trees cast long shadows in the golden light that will soon give way to grey ahead of an expected harsh winter. There could be snow within days.
Tommy Wolikow and his partner Rochelle Carlisle are struggling to make ends meet after being laid off. (ABC News: Adrian Wilson)
‘Don’t move. Don’t sell your house’
Tommy’s father worked at GM for 42 years. Getting a job at the plant was all Tommy ever wanted. Now, even after retraining, he has few prospects nearby.
“I remember that was one of the best days of my life because seeing my dad never need for anything, I knew like, wow I’m going to be financially secure. And I signed my permanent papers, and it meant so much to me that I framed my permanent papers when I signed them, I put them in a plaque,” he says.
Tommy and Rochelle have a white Chevy Cruze in their driveway. They bought the car out of loyalty to the plant where they both worked which makes the small sedan.
A banner on the GM factory in Lordstown, Ohio. Some production has now been moved to Mexico. (ABC News: Emily Olson)
But changing consumer taste, and a shift towards SUVs has depressed demand for cars like this. GM has retrenched two shifts, axing 3,000 workers, since the start of 2017.
“My fiance, she’s a waitress at a restaurant, and she worked at General Motors too,” Tommy says.
“She was making $20 an hour, and I was making over $25 an hour. So we were making close to $50 an hour. Now we’re living off my credit cards and her waitressing. It’s literally like a quarter of the income that we were used to bringing in, so times are really hard right now.”
The first shift was laid off from the plant on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated.
Soon after, the President paid a visit to the area.
‘Those jobs have left Ohio,” he told the crowd at a rally in the nearby city of Youngstown.
“But they’re all coming back. They’re all coming back. They’re coming back. Don’t move. Don’t sell your house,” he said.
Tommy says he’s not a political person and it was the first political rally he’d ever been to. He says he became a Trump supporter because of what the new President offered.
“When I heard him say that, it sounded so sincere. I was like, okay, well I like this guy, I like what he has to say and I believed him, and it’s really hard to hold onto hope when it’s been so long and all I’ve been seeing is job loss, not job gain.”
Donald Trump’s promises leave a community frustrated
Local auto workers union president David Green says Donald Trump hasn’t kept his promises to workers. (ABC News: Adrian Wilson)
Tommy’s not the only one who backed Donald Trump here.
Local union boss David Green says about 40 per cent of members voted for the President, even though trade unionists are traditionally Democrats.
Since then, as well as laying off thousands, GM has moved some of its production to Mexico.
“He’s saying promises made, promises kept,” Green says, against a backdrop of the stars and stripes at the union headquarters in Lordstown.
“Well we haven’t seen that. Which promises did he keep? I don’t know. Nothing’s gotten better for the working people in this community, only worse.”
The frustration, he says, is not that the President failed to prevent the layoffs, but that he’s taken no action since after teasing people, with hope.
“The fact that the president had just gotten sworn in, no-one could hold him accountable for that. But I think the hope was in the months after that, years, a couple now almost, that he’d start to say something about it, or you know, fight to bring those jobs back,” he says.
A ‘blue wave’ could deliver a ‘wakeup call’
Both Mr Green and the mayor of Youngstown have written to the President requesting help for the community. Neither has had a reply.
With midterm elections just over a week away Republicans face a predicted “blue wave” in urban areas which may deliver the House to the Democrats.
Betting the farm on Trump
In 2016, these farmers helped elected Donald Trump. Are they happy with America in 2018?
Many Republicans point to the strong economy, low unemployment and tax cuts to explain their continued support for Donald Trump. However, in part the President was elected because he spoke to people who felt they’d been forgotten by Washington.
Not all of them are convinced that he remembers that.
“I don’t want to say he’s forgotten but I think he needs a wakeup call,” Tommy says.
“He needs people like me to say, ‘Hey President Trump, no disrespect, you’re the President of the United States of America, and we need your help. We’re just asking you, hey we don’t need a hand out, we need a hand up’.”
Tommy’s yet to decide who he will vote for on November 6.