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Published: Tuesday, 4/24/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Obama campaign starts auto tour in NW Ohio

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
From left: Greg Schultz, Obama campaign state director, Joel Kuhlman, Wood County commissioner, and Ina Sidney, a worker at the Chrysler Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg, during Made in Ohio campaign stop at the Local 1435 UAW Hall in Perrysburg, Ohio. From left: Greg Schultz, Obama campaign state director, Joel Kuhlman, Wood County commissioner, and Ina Sidney, a worker at the Chrysler Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg, during Made in Ohio campaign stop at the Local 1435 UAW Hall in Perrysburg, Ohio.
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Driving three black cars that either were built in Ohio or contained parts made in the state, the Obama re-election campaign began its "Made In Ohio" tour of the state's car-manufacturing belt Tuesday in the state's northwest quadrant.

The trip is to feature the voices of factory workers whose jobs were saved through the Obama-sponsored auto-industry bailout — a success that Republicans contend is due as much if not more to the pro-growth policies of Gov. John Kasich.

An employee of Chrysler Group LLC's machining plant in Perrysburg Township talked about the uncertainty of the future of the auto industry in early 2009 when workers were put on a two-month layoff prior to Chry­sler going through bankruptcy.

"I didn't know if I was going to have a job. It was our greatest fear, for everybody," said Ina Sidney, 46, of Toledo. The 15-year plant employee said a lot of her friends and family members are also autoworkers. She said she works on making steering columns.

"It was scary for a couple of months, scraping by on unemployment, maybe borrowing from other friends and family," Ms. Sidney said. "Thanks to President Obama and our rescue, the Perrysburg plant [is] back, and better than ever before, praise the Lord."

She and other speakers appeared in a news conference at the United Auto Workers Local 1435 hall on Oregon Road in Perrysburg Township. Earlier in the day, the three-car caravan stopped at a union hall in Lima.

Today, the Made In Ohio tour is to continue to Avon Lake in Lorain County and Brook Park in Cuyahoga County and later in the week to Youngstown and Warren.

The success of the 2009 auto industry bailouts is being touted by the Obama re-election campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who opposed the $80 billion infusion of federal money into General Motors Co. and Chrysler.

Ken Lortz, director of the United Auto Workers for Ohio and Indiana, who is supporting Mr. Obama, said all UAW workers gave up at least $7,000 worth of annual compensation in the loss of overtime, holidays, and lump sum payments that were scheduled for 2009 and 2010.

"Everybody had skin in the game," said Mr. Lortz.

"If Mitt Romney had his way, who knows what would have happened in Ohio and at this Perrysburg operation. Just try to imagine a future where there's no auto industry," said Mr. Lortz. He said employment has rebounded in Ohio car and parts plants from 105,000 right after the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler to 120,000 today and that an additional 700,000 jobs are dependent on the auto and parts factories.

The cars in the caravan are a Chevrolet Cruze, made at the GM Lordstown plant, a Jeep Wrangler, made in Toledo, and a Ford Focus made primarily of parts manufactured in Ohio, Greg Schultz Obama state campaign director, said.

Christopher Maloney, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said the expansion of auto and parts manufacturing in Ohio can be credited to the "pro-growth" policies of Governor Kasich and the Republican-led General Assembly "that foster a business climate which welcomes innovation and investment from manufacturers."

"Contrary to the assertions of special interest partisans, these incentives emanate from the people of Ohio, not the federal government," Mr. Maloney said.

Ryan Williams, spokesman for Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said, "It's no surprise that big government liberals and big labor bosses opposed Mitt Romney's proposals to help turn around the automotive industry. Under Governor Romney, the restructuring would have succeeded while protecting the taxpayers and the principles of free enterprise, not the union bosses."

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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