Brown, Portman, Ryan meet with GM CEO

Barra careful not to elevate expectations on Lordstown plant

WASHINGTON — General Motors CEO Mary Barra told legislators Wednesday she has an open mind about the Lordstown GM’s future, but wants to be careful not to elevate expectations, Sen. Rob Portman said following a meeting in Washington.

Portman, a Republican, and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, both of Ohio, along with U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, met with Barra in their bid to keep the local assembly plant from closing, urging her to give auto workers a chance at a new line of electric vehicles soon headed into production.

The meeting came following last week’s announcement by GM that it will stop making the Chevy Cruze in Lordstown by March and is considering closing the plant for good. It’s part of a massive restructuring for the Detroit-based automaker.

Portman and Brown said they urged Barra to keep the plant open to avoid devastating consequences for the Mahoning Valley.

“Just as the workforce has stood with General Motors over the years, we expect GM to stand with these workers — and give them a chance,” Portman told reporters after the meeting.

Brown added, “This is the best GM assembly plant workforce in all of North America. We know the impact this has on the Valley.”

Already, 3,000 jobs have been eliminated at the plant since the beginning of 2017. GM has about 1,500 workers left at the Lordstown plant.

“Since GM’s announced layoffs, I’ve heard first-hand from countless people across Northeast Ohio who are scared for their financial security and their community’s future. I conveyed that to Mary Barra (Wednesday) and once more insisted that GM do everything it can to place a new product at the Lordstown plant,” Ryan said, via a release. “These are not just numbers on a page, but people’s lives at stake.”

Ryan said he also reaffirmed his desire to Barra to “work with her, the administration and my colleagues on the Hill to bring this problem to a resolution that supports the workers who have done nothing wrong.”

Brown said he’s enlisted the help of Republican President Donald Trump and his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, Ohio Gov.-elect Mike DeWine and a host of local officials. Brown has also reached out to sitting Republican Gov. John Kasich, who leaves office next month.

In a release following the meeting, Portman said he also spoke Wednesday with President Trump, saying the president is “very committed to helping us keep this assembly plant in Ohio.”

Portman also said he talked with Acosta, who he said “is eager, wants to be helpful.”

Barra said it was an “incredibly difficult” decision to place Lordstown in an “unallocated” position because it directly affects GM workers as well as retirees and their pensions.

“We’re working very hard to make sure General Motors is around for several decades in a leadership position, can provide jobs and support the communities and the stakeholders that are involved with the company,” she said.

She said the company is working with the United Auto Workers union to explore training and relocation opportunities for affected workers.

A heckler interrupted Barra’s remarks, peppering her with questions about workers who might want to remain in Lordstown rather than relocate and whose holidays have been ruined by the timing of the announcement.

“We are trying to do the right thing,” she said. “We think Ohio is a very important auto state. We have a very good workforce there and we have a tremendous amount of workers in the state that will continue.”

“We believe that the workers in the community around Lordstown have proved themselves time and time again for almost five and half decades,” Portman said. “Those workers have done their part.”