General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra completed two days of tense discussions with politicians in areas affected by the company’s recently announced plans to close five plants and displace thousands of workers.
Barra’s message was that these decisions were not made lightly and that the company would find jobs for many of the displaced workers, but ultimately they were made due to shifts in the buying habits of Americans.
“We had really productive discussions, and I think they have a better understanding of what we’re doing and why, and how we’re making sure that we’re supporting the displaced workers, especially at the plants that are impacted, ” she said after meeting with Michigan politicians, the Detroit News reported.
“And I have an understanding and appreciation of some of the challenges they are working on. As always, when you communicate, you find ways to improve the situation, so I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to meet with as members of Congress as I did.”
(GM CEO’s “open mind” may not save any of the five plants slated for closure. Click Here for the story.)
The politicians from Ohio, Maryland and Michigan had hopes of changing Barra’s mind about the moves, which were approved by the GM board right before Thanksgiving. However, they noted while she was sympathetic, she had no plans to undo any of the choices made.
Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman met with Barra on Wednesday, hoping to change her mind, but only got a commitment to try to expedite negotiations with the United Auto Workers union on the future of the company’s recented “unallocated” plants, including the Lordstown Assembly plant in northeast Ohio.
“Both of us want to be sure that both the company and the UAW expedite that as much as possible and get to a decision to provide some potential certainty,” said Portman, a Republican. “She agreed that’s a potential opportunity. Also, she has said to us that she is going to keep an open mind, but she does not want to raise expectations.”
Brown was more strident in his expectations from Barra and GM, pointing out that there plenty of new products coming in the near future and the Lordstown, Ohio plant would be a good start, especially in lieu of the financial help the company received from the government.
(Click Here for more about GM looking at white collar layoffs due to low buyout response.)
“Are they going to bring an electric vehicle? Are they going to retool their plant and maybe look at one of their SUVs moving into this plant? They can do that. They’ve been the beneficiary of a tax bill that has produced some dollars for them to reinvest. Some of it is stock buybacks, but a lot of it can go to reinvesting in this plant,” said Brown, who is rumored to be a presidential candidate for 2020.
However, Brown wasn’t the only Senator looking to make a case for his state for future products, but Michigan Senator Gary Peters is upset that a recent high-profile product, the new Blazer went to Mexico instead of the U.S.
“There was a recent decision to make the new Chevy Blazer in Mexico,” he said. “They moved production for that Blazer to a factory that had excess capacity, whereas we had excess capacity in the United States. The Chevy Blazer should be made in the United States, with American workers.”
Barra reminded Peters of the long-term nature of decisions made by automakers.
“The decision of where the Blazer was built, that was made many years ago,” she said. “At that time Lordstown, for instance, was running full out of three shifts. The market has changed dramatically.”
(To see more about Mary Barra’s radical reshaping of General Motors, Click Here.)
She noted that since then new products have been designated for plants in Kansas, Tennessee, Indiana and Michigan. Barra also added in a statement that employees who don’t move to new jobs within the company are being offered outplacement assistance to find new jobs.