Barra to meet with Ohio senators to discuss GM cutbacks
WASHINGTON — General Motors CEO Mary Barra is scheduled to meet Ohio senators Sherrod Brown and Robert Portman on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon to discuss the automakers' decision to idle four U.S. plants and potentially cut more than 14,000 salaried and hourly workers across the company.
Brown, a Democrat who won re-election last month, and Portman, a Republican, said in a statement they will press Barra to save the Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant, which currently assembles the Chevy Cruze sedan.
GM also announced it would cease production of the Buick LaCrosse, Chevy Volt, Cadillac CT6 and Chevy Impala at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant during the first half of next year, as well as a plant in Ontario and powertrain facilities in Maryland and Michigan. It said the streamlining is necessary to align with falling consumer demand for sedans and to shift resources to electric and autonomous vehicle development.
"We have the best workers in the world in Ohio, and I'm proud of the workers at Lordstown," said Portman. "They have proven themselves time and again, and Sen. Brown and I will continue to fight on their behalf. I look forward to continuing our engagement with GM. I hope the company sees the incredible potential in this plant, by keeping it open and bringing other production back to the Valley."
GM's decision has met with strong criticism from lawmakers in Michigan and Ohio who say GM needs to protect its workers, who were not consulted in advance, after the company got a taxpayer bailout and union concessions to keep it afloat 10 years ago.
UAW President Gary Jones on Monday said the union will fight to keep the plants open. Under the existing contract, GM cannot close union-represented plants except under extreme circumstances and union leaders say a sales dip does not constitute an emergency.
"Today, we wrote to GM formally objecting to its unilateral decision regarding four U.S. manufacturing facilities. There are issues related to this and to collective bargaining that we cannot discuss in detail at this point," Jones said in a statement. "But UAW members across this country are committed to using every means available to us on behalf of our brothers and sisters at Lordstown, Hamtramck, Baltimore and Warren, MI. UAW members and U.S. taxpayers invested in GM during their darkest days. Now it is time for them to invest in us!"
GM has said line workers will have the opportunity to move to busier plants and left open the possibility that new models could still be substituted at the targeted factories, which some analysts consider a way to play off union locals against each other to gain concessions.
GM also plans after Jan. 1 to cut about 6,000 white-collar employees after 2,250 people with 12 years or more experience accepted buyouts. Spokesman Patrick Morrissey confirmed that the automaker will also be eliminating a quarter of its executive headcount.
Barra also is excepted to meet with members of the Michigan congressional delegation Wednesday or Thursday.
Meanwhile, Maryland's two U.S. senators, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and four other members of Congress from the state wrote Barra on Friday asking her for a meeting about the company's plans to close a facility near Baltimore that received more than $100 million in federal subsidies.
"Closing a productive plant when GM has accepted significant public assistance and has reported healthy third-quarter profits of $2.5 billion is an example of extremely poor corporate citizenship," the lawmakers wrote.
GM is not the only automaker under the gun in Washington this week. On Tuesday, top executives from Volkswagen Group, Daimler AG and BMW AG will meet with Trump administration officials at the White House about potential tariffs on auto imports from Germany. President Trump has refrained from moving ahead on tariff threats against Europe under a truce between the European Union and the U.S. to hold wide-ranging talks to liberalize trans-Atlantic trade.
Reuters contributed to this report.