'James the Jeep Worker' to be face of campaign

Man featured in video for Obama re-election effort

6/3/2011
BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Democratic officials decided that James Fayson's layoff and return to work was the right story to tout President Obama's auto bailout. Mr. Fayson, a production operator assembler at the Toledo Assembly complex, says he was nervous but added, 'I pretty much spoke from the heart.'
Democratic officials decided that James Fayson's layoff and return to work was the right story to tout President Obama's auto bailout. Mr. Fayson, a production operator assembler at the Toledo Assembly complex, says he was nervous but added, 'I pretty much spoke from the heart.'

"Joe the Plumber" was one of the top symbols of the 2008 presidential election. Now, get ready for "James the Jeep Worker" in 2012.

James Fayson, a production operator assembler at Chrysler Group LLC's Toledo Assembly complex, is set to appear in a video directed for President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. The Toledo resident, 36, has spent 14 years working at the complex, which has a group of factories that make Jeep Wrangler vehicles and a factory that makes Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro vehicles.

President Obama is in Toledo Friday to tour the Wrangler plant -- next to the one where Mr. Fayson works -- just more than a week after Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion in federal bailout loans. The President is expected to tout the success of the 2009 automotive bailouts.

A source familiar with the Obama campaign confirmed that Mr. Fayson participated in a video for the President's re-election campaign. Details of the video, such as when and where it will appear, were not provided.

OBAMA'S INTENDED ITINERARY

  • Making his first trip to Toledo since his election in 2008, President Obama is to fly in to Toledo Express Airport this morning, trek to Chrysler Group LLC’s Toledo Assembly complex, possibly make two or three other stops, and then depart from the airport by late afternoon.
  • It is not known what roads or highways may be closed because of Mr. Obama’s visit.
  • The events are not open to the public.
  • A detailed agenda of the nation’s leader hasn’t been disclosed for security reasons. However, he will tour the Chrysler plant that makes Jeep Wranglers off Stickney Drive by early afternoon. At 1:30 p.m. , he will talk to assembled workers and others, including Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne and community, political, and labor dignitaries.
  • He is expected to tout the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry and give credit for that to his federal bailout, which assured the survival of Chrysler and General Motors Co. Both automakers filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 to enact severe cutbacks and other changes. Now, both firms are profitable.
  • After the event, the White House said he will talk to local business owners and residents.

A film crew followed Mr. Fayson for several hours Wednesday, he said, documenting his daily routine outside work and interviewing him about his automotive career, as well as his support for the government-backed turnaround of Chrysler and General Motors Co. In his interview, Mr. Fayson said the federal bailout allowed him to return to work late last year after he was laid off from Chrysler in 2009.

"I'm very thankful to be back to work, and it's only because of the decision that the President made to save the auto industry that I was afforded [the chance] to come back to work," Mr. Fayson said.

He will be one of the Chrysler workers attending Friday's ceremony with the President.

Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12 that represents the Toledo Assembly workers, asked Mr. Fayson to participate in a conference call with reporters last week as Chrysler paid off its bailout loans.

Mr. Fayson's story of being laid off and returning to his job after the bailout was touted by state and national Democratic officials on the call, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), as an example in defending the automotive bailout.

Mr. Baumhower said Mr. Fayson's story is representative of other automotive workers who were forced to make tough career decisions as the Detroit Three automakers worked toward recovery.

President Obama will visit Chrysler Group LLC's Toledo Assembly Complex Friday.
President Obama will visit Chrysler Group LLC's Toledo Assembly Complex Friday.

"Many of them had to decide to take a buyout and walk away from their automotive career, or remain on layoff and hope to someday return, not knowing if the company would survive and, if it survived, would they be apart of it," Mr. Baumhower said.

Mr. Fayson said he was "nervous and excited" to be involved in the campaign video.

"I couldn't sleep the night before because I knew they were coming," said Mr. Fayson, who began filming at his house with the camera crew at about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Mr. Fayson said he looks forward to seeing the video when it eventually airs.

"To have a documentary on me was a different experience," he said. "And I pretty much just spoke from the heart."

Contact Sheena Harrison at: sharrison@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.