I can’t believe it’s been a few days since we’ve been back from Youngstown. What a trip it was! We spoke to church leaders about addressing racism throughout the city, we listened as union auto workers told us how their lives were upended after the Lordstown plant closed, and we connected with a small business owner as she told us her life story after re-opening her family’s restaurant in the city. As we visited different businesses and cultural sites throughout town, I thought about what the many different futures of Youngstown might look like if different puzzle pieces fell into place.
Our lunch with the UAW 1112 stood out to me as the most unique and emotionally profound experience of our trip. While some aspects of the trip were both familiar to life at home in New York and the towns we grew up in scattered around the world with quirks unique to Youngstown, the union visit was something that far fewer of us have experienced. The union workers were grappling with the immediate changes from the juggernaut of automation, and the effects automation had on their personal and professional lives were heart-wrenching. Our group found ourselves talking through solutions to displacement of so many workers long after we left the lunch, and found ourselves tepidly hopeful for new job opportunities for our new friends when we learned that the Lordstown plant had been sold to electric truck start up Workhorse earlier this week. Once I got home to New York, I thought about how automation may affect some of the jobs MBA’s covet in the not-so-distant future and how the Youngstown autoworkers were treated may be a sign of what’s to come for many more if we don’t have groups of people just like us working towards finding the right way forward.
Our trip to Youngstown will stay with me forever, and I know my classmates feel the same. To the first years and prospective students out there reading this blog, take Bridging the American Divide once you get to your second year at CBS. You won’t regret it.