August 9, 2023
From Fight Back News

Paris, Michigan – On August 1, student activists attended a city council meeting in Paris, Michigan just north of Big Rapids. The city council convened to discuss multiple matters, but the primary topic was the planned construction by Gotion of a battery plant for electric vehicles. Gotion is a Chinese-owned firm with its U.S. subsidiary incorporated in California since 2014. 

Republican Party activists are protesting the Chinese ownership of the battery plant despite the 2300 new jobs it brings to a dying city. Big Rapids has lost half of its population since the years when George Bush Sr. was president of the United States. The Gotion plant will bring industrial jobs back to an area that has 37% poverty rates. It will give small businesses a lifeline. 

Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organized a canvassing campaign last month and came to the council meeting to comment. In their campaign, students went knocking door to door, handing out educational flyers, and received feedback from local Big Rapids residents about the Gotion plant. Many working-class residents and business owners alike responded positively to the information campaign. Their opinions are positive about the new jobs the Gotion battery plant will bring to the area. 

At the city council meeting, two student activists spoke in public comment, supporting the 2300 jobs the Gotion plant will bring, while also advocating for a labor union and high environmental standards at this new factory. They were joined in comment by local allies from the Democrat Party, as well as by residents of Paris and Big Rapids who are in favor of the Gotion plant. 

One SDS member said, “We need to ensure that they are held to a higher environmental standard than what the state and federal government, which are rather lax on environmental issues, demand. I think that Gotion would be more than willing to comply, as in China they have higher environmental standards than in the United States.”

Owen Frassetto spoke next in public comment. He said, “One interest, which is not common, nor beneficial to the working people, is Sinophobia, and general bigotry against Asian people.” 

Frassetto went onto say, “If there are still concerns over who controls this battery plant, or environmental concerns, the best way to solve that problem is for the workers who will be employed at the plant to have a say in how it runs through a union, to ensure their voice is a strong one.”

The student activists were met with support from allies and other pro-jobs residents. At the same time, they were confronted with opposition from the anti-jobs Republicans. The pro-jobs people defended their points both in public comment and afterwards, receiving compliments from many there. 

One resident said, “Despite the outcry, the Sinophobia, and some anti-Chinese remarks of anti-Gotion people, the plan to construct the factory is moving ahead, and it’ll bring over 2000 permanent jobs to our city.” 

On the same day of the city council meeting, Gotion Inc. confirmed its purchase of 270 acres in the Big Rapids area.