WASHINGTON — General Motors' decision to right-size operations in the face of changing market conditions may have impressed analysts onWall Street, but it did not play well among politicians here who have staked careers on improving conditions for the working class.
GM executives have been accused of insensitivity for laying off workers after the 2009 federal bailout and recent record profits, but they seem to have calculated that they can withstand the public heat in order to gain a first-mover advantage in upcoming union negotiations.
Shutting up to five North American plants and cutting 14,000 jobs would have been unthinkable after Donald Trump won the 2016 election and put the auto industry in his Twitter crosshairs over production in countries such as Mexico. Executives were conciliatory as the White House pressured companies to expand domestic production. When Ford Motor Co. canceled plans to build a factory in Mexico, it portrayed the move as a nod to Trump's "America First" appeals.
But GM might feel emboldened to cross the president — who staked his reputation on adding manufacturing jobs — now that corporate tax cuts are in hand, deregulatory efforts are in full swing and Trump's clout has been reduced by Democrats' newly won control of the House.