Trump Rebukes General Motors and Union Over Idling of Lordstown Plant
President Trump entered office berating Detroit automakers for closing plants and sending jobs abroad. With another election on the horizon, he has renewed the attack.
Mr. Trump took to Twitter on Monday to demand that General Motors reopen a car plant in Ohio, a state that could play a pivotal role in his 2020 re-election campaign.
The president also criticized the United Auto Workers union and touted investments in the United States by Toyota and other foreign car companies.
G.M. said in November that it would idle its factory in Lordstown, Ohio, as part of broader cutbacks that would eliminate a total of 14,000 jobs, and it stopped production there two weeks ago.
Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that he wanted the Ohio plant “opened or sold to a company who will open it up fast!” He also urged G.M. to close a factory in China or Mexico instead of idling the one in Lordstown.
The president also called on the company and the U.A.W. to start talks to reopen Lordstown rather than waiting until the fall, when the two sides are scheduled to negotiate a new labor contract. G.M. and the union, however, have been in discussions since last year about Lordstown and other plants designated for closing.
“Our focus is on our members who have been impacted, and we have and will continue to leave no stone unturned to keep the G.M. plants open,” the union said in a statement.
In its November announcement, G.M. said it was also idling a car plant in Detroit, and plants in Warren, Mich., and Baltimore that make electric motors and transmissions. The action will eliminate 2,800 factory jobs. Thousands of white-collar jobs are also being cut as part of a cost-cutting drive.
G.M. recently said it would keep the Detroit plant operating until January, seven months longer than originally planned.
As for the 1,200 Lordstown workers, 450 have found new jobs at other G.M. plants, according to data released by G.M., and roughly 350 others were eligible for retirement. The company has 2,700 openings for hourly workers, most in the Midwest, a company spokesman said.
The president’s messages were the latest in recent Twitter volleys promoting the state of the economy with a presidential election season nearing. G.M.’s plant closings undercut his claims that he is bringing manufacturing jobs to Ohio and other states.
On Monday, Mr. Trump pointed out that Toyota was increasing its investment in United States operations. Last week, the Japanese automaker said it would invest $13 billion in the United States in a five-year period ending in 2021, up from its original estimate of $10 billion, and would add 600 jobs.
A G.M. spokesman said his company had invested $1 billion in its domestic operations since the 2016 election, and $22 billion since 2009. Part of its investment has gone into developing electric and self-driving cars. It has 98,000 employees in the United States.
The Lordstown plant was a victim of a rapid consumer shift as Americans abandoned small cars and sedans and flocked to sport utility vehicles and other larger vehicles. The Ohio plant made the Chevrolet Cruze, a compact whose sales fell by 23 percent in 2018. The plant was operating a single eight-hour shift a day. Auto plants typically have to run at least two shifts to make money.
Other automakers have been hit by the shift away from cars. Ford said last year that it was dropping sedans from its lineup. Fiat Chrysler did so in 2016.
Over the weekend, Mr. Trump had suggested that the Lordstown factory reopen “in a different form or with a new owner,” stressing that “time is of the essence!”
Mr. Trump also wrote that he had spoken with Mary Barra, G.M.’s chief executive, and had pressed her to sell the plant or “do something else quickly.” He also lashed out at David Green, the president of U.A.W. Local 1112, saying Mr. Green “ought to get his act together and produce.”
The carmaker responded to Mr. Trump’s comments with a statement saying that “the ultimate future of the unallocated plants will be resolved between G.M. and the U.A.W.” The union said in its own Twitter post Monday that “corporations close plants, workers don’t,” while urging the president not to “let G.M. off the hook.”
Elected officials from Ohio were quick to defend the union.
Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who has criticized Mr. Trump’s inattention to the factory’s troubles in the past, chided the president on Sunday for “attacking workers.” Mr. Green and Lordstown union members “have shown grit and determination in the face of adversity,” Mr. Brown wrote on Twitter.
Representative Tim Ryan, a Democrat who represents the area, wrote on Twitter that Mr. Trump’s message about Mr. Green was “counterproductive and insulting.” Mr. Green had tried to get in touch with Mr. Trump twice in hopes of getting his help, Mr. Ryan added, and had received no response.