AKRON—In an Aug. 19 tweet, President Trump called for the boycott of one of only three major American-owned tire companies, urging Americans not to "buy Goodyear Tires—They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS. Get better tires for far less!"
In response, about 175 people, including a half-dozen elected officials (all Democrats), gathered Aug. 20 outside the headquarters of United Steelworkers Local 2 on Kelly Avenue in Akron to protest the president's comments and urge people to do just the opposite.
"We're not going to buy Trump anymore," said Tavia Galonski, state representative for the 35th District of the Ohio House of Representatives. "We're going to buy Goodyear tires."
As the sign at the podium on the top of the USW Local 2 steps read, "United Steelworkers Solidarity," there was solidarity in the crowd, save one man who walked hurriedly around the perimeter of the rally, hoisting a sign that read, "Bury the Blimps."
The man declined a request to be interviewed.
Trump's contentious tweet followed the emergence of a photo from Goodyear's Topeka, Kan., plant that reportedly came from a company diversity meeting, allegedly stating that workers there could not wear clothing with the messages "Make America Great Again" or "Blue Lives Matter," while allowing apparel with "Black Lives Matter" and pro-LGBT monikers.
Goodyear said in an Aug. 19 statement that the graphic in question did not originate from its corporate office and that company policy always has been to avoid overt political expression "of any kind" while on the job.
The vast amount of people at the quickly orchestrated rally were members of unions, boasting union T-shirts from USW 1123 in Canton, for TimkenSteel Corp.; CWA (Communications Workers of America); and PCA (Packaging Corp. of America) Local 1237 in Newark, Ohio.
In all, between 15 and 20 unions were represented at the rally, with members from both the district and federal levels.
"Yesterday was a day in American history that was like no other I've ever experienced," said Bill Conner with USW District 2, which represents workers in Wisconsin and Michigan. "It was a sad day. The president of the United States called for a boycott on American products, without even having all of the information before he decided to tweet. This alone ought to scare the hell out of the American people."
Conner went on to read a letter from Tom Conway, USW International president.
"The president should pay as much attention to American jobs as he does to his MAGA hats," Conway wrote.
With the theme for the 45-minute rally well-established, the solidarity at the podium continued with Emilia Sykes, who said her lineage—which included her parents immigrating to the U.S. and working for Goodyear—compelled her to defend not just the company but her community at-large.
"You are not just attacking the Goodyear workers," said the representative of the 34th District and minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives. "You are attacking our community."
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan followed by praising the beauty of Akron and its rich history of coming to the nation's defense during war time, and drew raucous applause with his criticism of Trump.
"We are not going to take this lying down!" he said. "We are going to run Donald Trump out of the White House."