This past month, GM rocked the automotive industry when the company announced wide-scale changes, including layoffs that would “reduce salaried and salaried contract staff by 15 percent, which includes 25 percent fewer executives to streamline decision making,” and idling several plants in both the US and Canada. GM’s goal with this plan is to restructure their operations while doing well so that they can be a more competitive group moving forward.
That said, the change has been met with shock and disappointment, particularly from those working in towns which will be affected by factory closures, and by lawmakers. The announcement comes after a strong last quarter for the company, and after a tax bill generously freed up a nice amount of cash for GM. In a time when the government is attempting to encourage American labor, particularly in the automotive sector, some see General Motors’ decision as a betrayal of the country’s job market. President Trump voiced this as well, tweeting, “General Motors is very counter to what other auto, and other, companies are doing.”
This sentiment prompted GM to release a statement on November 27th, reasserting their commitment to American manufacturing, maintaining that the “announcements support our ability to invest for future growth and position the company for long-term success and maintain and grow American jobs.”
However, the concerns continue, uniting both the Republican and Democratic senators of Ohio, Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown. The two are particularly worried about the GM factory in Lordstown, Ohio, which is slated for closure. Both spoke out strongly after the initial announcement and arranged to meet with GM Chairman and CEO, Mary Barra yesterday, Wednesday the 6th. “Ohio has stood by GM,” said Brown, “Now GM needs to stand by Ohio, and the workers who make their company successful.”
Both senators wished to highlight the potential of the Lordstown plant, hoping that a solution could be found that could allow it to be salvaged, perhaps repurposed for more popular vehicles. “General Motors has made an announcement that they plan to build 20 new electric vehicles in the next five years, 20 new models. We want one or more of those models to be built in Lordstown, Ohio. That’s where it belongs.”
Whether that will happen remains up in the air. The meeting did allow both sides to meet and candidly discuss their positions. However, Barra told the senators that while “she is going to keep an open mind,” she “does not want to raise expectations.”
After, the company released a public statement reaffirming their intentions to move forward with their plans. In it, Barra says that she understands that this decision will have a large impact on their workers, families, and communities; nonetheless, there are measures in place to help salaried workers transition to new placements within GM.
Meanwhile, the senators and others will continue their fight, looking to work with other policy-makers and the United Auto Workers’ union to stave off closures and ensure their labor force isn’t left in the cold by GM’s changes.