Not just jobs riding on fate of GM plant after Trump promise
By ANGIE WANG, TOM KRISHER and JOHN SEEWER
Thursday, November 29
LORDSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — General Motors is moving to shut down as many as five North American factories in a major restructuring, but there are more than jobs riding on the fate of at least one of them: Ohio’s Lordstown assembly plant.
Ohio and much of the rest of the industrial Midwest were vital to President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 and probably will be again in 2020. Trump ran on a promise to bring back factory jobs, and blue-collar voters in this otherwise Democratic stronghold in northeastern Ohio embraced him.
Trump blasted GM’s announcement this week that it will shed up to 14,000 workers in North America. He threatened to cut off federal subsidies to the automaker and singled out the Ohio plant as one he wants to stay open.
“The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!” the president tweeted on Tuesday, referring to the government bailout of the automaker a decade ago.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress and union leaders are also pressuring the company to keep the plant running, in what’s now a high-stakes decision for all involved, not just for the workers and the battered Rust Belt community nervously watching.
GM said Monday that Lordstown will stop making the Chevy Cruze by March, at a cost of 1,400 union jobs on top of the 2,700 lost there since Trump took office.
The plant is a focal point in the potential closings because of the president’s pledge at a rally last year in nearby Youngstown, where he talked about going past big factories whose jobs “have left Ohio.”
“They’re all coming back. They’re all coming back,” Trump assured supporters. “Don’t move. Don’t sell your house.”
It was the kind of promise that endeared Trump to blue-collar workers in places like Youngstown and Lordstown, Democratic and labor bastions where Trump surprisingly won half the vote.
But it’s also one that could haunt him with people who crossed party lines two years ago, said David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron.
“You can’t place all of the blame on Donald Trump, but he individually raised the stakes because he promised workers he was the only one who could save the manufacturing base,” Cohen said. “And he can’t win the presidency without carrying the industrial Midwest.”
GM’s attempt to close the factories still has to be negotiated with the United Auto Workers union, which has promised to fight back. The other factories that could go are assembly plants in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, and transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.
The UAW would especially like to save Lordstown because it employs the most workers.
Only one shift is still working at the plant after GM dropped two since the beginning of 2017. Some workers transferred to a plant in Tennessee, while others took buyouts or retired, but there are still nearly 700 in the area on layoff.
“There’s a beacon of hope,” said UAW Local 1112 President Dave Green. “We don’t want a handout here. We just want work.”
Keeping open a factory slated to close is not without precedent at GM, and Lordstown has been near death before and managed to survive. GM stopped making the Chevrolet Cobalt compact there in 2009 but negotiated with the union to bring in the Cruze.
“I think Lordstown’s been on the bubble for quite some time,” said Arthur Wheaton, a labor expert who teaches at Cornell University’s Worker Institute.
But this time it feels more ominous for even longtime workers who have been through shutdown threats and job cuts, because now the entire industry is changing.
GM, like other automakers, is moving away from slow-selling cars and focusing on trucks and SUVS while also sinking money into new technology for self-driving and electric vehicles.
State and local governments are likely to offer tax breaks and other incentives to try to get GM to change its mind about the closings, said Kristen Dziczek, of the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“It’s the state and locals that are going to be able to put icing on the cake,” she said, pointing to big incentives extended to Foxconn in Wisconsin and Amazon in Virginia and New York.
All of this has left workers unsure what the future holds in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, once a proud steel-producing area where the GM plant is one of the few remaining industrial giants.
“It’s like we’re in a limbo now,” said Bobbi Marsh, a 41-year-old single mother. “I’ve lived in this community my whole life. I bought the home my father and grandfather built. I don’t want to move.”
Krisher reported from Detroit, Seewer from Toledo, Ohio.
Ohio’s Democratic US senator says Trump should take action
By DAN SEWELL
Wednesday, November 28
CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio’s Democratic U.S. senator, a potential 2020 presidential candidate, Wednesday challenged President Donald Trump to stop “pointing fingers” and take action to head off auto plant closings.
Sen. Sherrod Brown promoted legislation he introduced in August that would give customers a $3,500 discount on cars made in America and curtail tax breaks on profits from auto makers that move jobs overseas. He said he hoped to speak soon with the Republican president, as Brown and Ohio’s Republican leaders are seeking ways to save the Lordstown plant near Youngstown.
Trump has threatened to slash General Motors subsidies and has criticized Brown since Detroit-based GM announced Monday that production of the Chevy Cruze would stop in March at the assembly plant that has some 1,500 workers left after losing 3,000 jobs within two years.
Trump told The Wall Street Journal that “Ohio wasn’t properly represented by their Democrat senator, Senator Brown, because he didn’t get the point across” to General Motors.
Brown told reporters he joins “a long line of people” that Trump points his finger at while not taking responsibility.
“I’ll stand up for my record fighting for American workers against this president’s, any day, on any issue,” said Brown, who after his election this month to a third term said he is seriously considering a 2020 president run.
Youngtown is in a Democratic and labor stronghold where Trump ran well while carrying Ohio in 2016. At a rally near the plant last year, Trump talked about passing by big factories whose jobs “have left Ohio,” then told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are “coming back. They’re all coming back.”
Brown said people in the Mahoning Valley area trusted Trump, so it’s time for him to “live up to his promise” and urged him to support Brown’s legislation, which has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s Republican senator, Rob Portman, said he will push GM to produce one of its electric vehicles at the Lordstown plant. Ohio’s incoming governor, Republican Mike DeWine, said he plans on meeting with GM officials to make a case for the plant after he takes office in January
GM said Lordstown is one of five factories up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus on autonomous and electric vehicles. What happens to those plants will be discussed during contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.
Follow Dan Sewell at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell