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Union clings to GM Lordstown plant in area where Trump promised jobs

  • General-Motors-Ohio

    Workers at General Motors' Lordstown Assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, put the final touches on Chevrolet Cobalts in 2010. One of the last industrial anchors in what was once the heart of manufacturing in Ohio is now on life support after General Motors announced Monday it will stop small-car production at its Lordstown assembly plant and consider closing it for good.

    MARK DUNCAN / AP FILE

  • General-Motors-Restructuring

    A worker checks the paint on a Camaro in 2011 at the GM factory in Oshawa, Ontario. General Motors is closing a Canadian plant at the cost of about 2,500 jobs, but that is apparently just a piece of a much broader, company-wide restructuring that will be announced as early as Monday.

    FRANK GUNN / CANADIAN PRESS VIA AP, FILE

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One of the last industrial anchors in what was once Ohio's manufacturing core is now on life support, just a little over a year after President Donald Trump told people not to leave and promised that jobs would come back to the area.

General Motors announced Monday it will stop small-car production at its assembly plant near Youngstown and consider closing it for good. Labor union leaders and others behind a campaign to save the plant in Lordstown are holding onto hope that they can persuade the automaker to find another use for the factory.

But its outlook is bleak after GM announced production of the Chevy Cruze would stop in March, halting work at the assembly plant that already had lost two shifts and 3,000 union jobs since the beginning of last year.

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.

The once-bustling GM operation in northeastern Ohio's Mahoning Valley is one of the few remaining ties to an era when thousands worked in steel plants and factories in Youngstown and surrounding communities.

"That plant is the economic lifeline of the whole valley," said Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill. "When we lost steel, that plant carried us through."

Bobbi Marsh, who has worked at the Lordstown plant since 2008 and whose father was there 42 years, said so many other jobs depend on the plant.

"I can't believe our president would allow this to happen," she said Monday.

"It's like we're in a limbo now," said Marsh, a single mother who said she has a teaching degree to fall back on if the plant is closed. "But it's nowhere near the money I was making,"

Youngtown is in a Democratic and labor stronghold, where President Donald Trump won over a surprising number of voters two years ago because of his promise to bring work back to the U.S.

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."

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown called GM's announcement move "corporate greed at its worst."

Brown, a longtime labor union ally, said in a statement that "the company reaped a massive tax break from last year's GOP tax bill and failed to invest that money in American jobs."

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who represents the Youngstown area, called on the president to take action.

The two Democrats also pointed out that taxpayers bailed out the automaker a decade ago and have expressed frustration during past months over their attempts to talk with GM CEO Mary Barra about how to keep the plant running.

Just last week, politicians and union leaders kicked off a campaign to keep the Lordstown plant operating.

UAW Local 1112 President Dave Green said Monday that there's still hope. "We are determined to do everything we can to convince General Motors to make Lordstown part of the future of auto manufacturing," he said.

Ohio's incoming governor, Republican Mike DeWine, said he plans on meeting with GM officials and make a case for the plant after he takes office in January.

***

DETROIT — General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won't be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. They will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.

More than 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck and SUV plants.

GM, the largest automaker in the U.S. and includes the Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC brands, said the moves will save $6 billion in cash by the end of next year, including $4.5 billion in recurring annual cost reductions and a $1.5 billion reduction in capital spending.

Those cuts are in addition to $6.5 billion that the company has announced by the end of this year.

GM doesn't foresee an economic downturn and is making the cuts "to get in front of it while the company is strong and while the economy is strong," CEO Mary Barra told reporters.

Barra said GM is still hiring people with expertise in software and electric and autonomous vehicles, and many of those who will lose their jobs are now working on conventional cars with internal combustion engines.

Barra said the industry is changing rapidly and moving toward electric propulsion, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing, and GM must adjust with it.

The factories up for possible closure are part of GM's effort "to right-size our capacity for the realities of the marketplace," as consumers shift away from cars to trucks and SUVs.

The company, she said, has invested in newer architectures for trucks and SUVs so it can cut capital spending while still raising investment in autonomous and electric vehicles.

The salaried reductions amount to 15 percent of GM's North American workforce out of 54,000. At the factories, 3,000 workers could lose jobs in Canada and another 3,600 in the U.S. Some U.S. workers would transfer to truck and SUV plants where GM is increasing output, the company said.

GM has offered buyouts to 18,000 retirement-eligible workers with a dozen or more years of service. It would not say how many have accepted the buyouts, but it was short of the company's target because GM said there will be white-collar layoffs.

The company expects to take a pretax charge of $3 billion to $3.8 billion due to the actions, including up to $1.8 billion of asset write downs and pension charges. The charges will take place in the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of next year.



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