Brown, Portman write letter demanding answers from GM CEO

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WASHINGTON (WDTN) – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman submitted a letter Tuesday to General Motors CEO Mary Barra demanding answers about the future of the Lordstown plant.

The senators are arguing that Lordstown workers, their families, and the impacted communities need to know what the potential job and supply chain impacts will be in order to prepare for the consequences of GM’s final decision.

“As GM continues to evaluate the company’s next steps with respect to the Lordstown plant, it is critical that the workers and communities affected by any company decisions understand the short and long-term implications of the announcement and its full impacts. Only with complete information can the Mahoning Valley – as well as the numerous Ohio businesses and communities who stand to lose jobs and investment as part of the Lordstown closure – effectively respond to, and recover from, changes to production at Lordstown,” Brown and Portman wrote in their letter.

The two senators met with Barra last week following GM’s announcement that it would lay off its final shift of workers and close the Lordstown plant in March of 2019.

GM announced plans earlier this year to build the new Chevy Blazer in Mexico on the same day the company ended the second shift at a plant. The company has eliminated nearly 3,000 jobs at the plant over the last two years.

Read the full letter below:

Dear Ms. Barra:

Thank you for meeting with us last week.  We are pleased that you committed to keeping an open mind about Lordstown’s future, and we are committed to working with you to find a way forward that would bring another product or products to the Lordstown plant.

As we discussed, we are deeply disappointed in GM’s announcement to discontinue vehicle production at the plant.  For more than 50 years, Lordstown has been an important part of GM’s success, and just this year J.D. Power ranked the plant number one for the highest quality production among GM’s facilities.  Given Lordstown’s history and effectiveness, we disagree that this facility should be shuttered simply because the product is uncompetitive. Instead, we believe this makes Lordstown an excellent candidate for a more competitive vehicle and urge GM to invest in this facility. 

We note with concern that GM has increased its Mexican-based production in recent years, including of the Blazer, and we ask you to consider Lordstown as an alternative assembly facility for vehicles intended for U.S. consumers.  We believe Lordstown is well-suited to manufacture SUV or cross-over vehicles or next generation cars.

As GM continues to evaluate the company’s next steps with respect to the Lordstown plant, it is critical that the workers and communities affected by any company decisions understand the short- and long-term implications of the announcement and its full impacts.  Only with complete information can the Mahoning Valley – as well as the numerous Ohio businesses and communities who stand to lose jobs and investment as part the Lordstown closure – effectively respond to, and recover from, changes to production at Lordstown.  To that end, we request that GM provide comprehensive answers to the following questions. 

Current Status of the Lordstown Plant

  • Given the high rankings earned by Lordstown, what factors – other than poor sales of the Chevy Cruze – contributed to GM’s decision to unallocate this facility in particular?
  • Given that GM made the decision to unallocate Lordstown unilaterally, why has GM suggested – which you reinforced in our meeting – that GM cannot unilaterally reverse this decision?
  • What is the average amount of time that unallocated GM facilities remain in that status?
  • What factors will GM take into consideration in determining whether to allocate another vehicle to Lordstown?  Will Lordstown’s status as GM’s top performing plant for quality according to J.D. Power 2018 data be taken into consideration?
  • If GM ultimately makes the unfortunate decision to close Lordstown, how much will it cost the company to shut the facility?  How long is that process expected to take?

Job and Supply Chain Impacts

  • In our meeting, you mentioned that there are only 1,000 laid off employees company-wide.  This seems inconsistent with the data we have on the second and third shift Lordstown workers.  Please provide a breakdown of the status of the currently laid off Lordstown workers (i.e. whether they have retired, were relocated to another plant, or are still looking for work).
  • All suppliers to Lordstown will be affected by this announcement in some way, therefore what are the names and locations of the Chevy Cruze Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers that GM expects to be adversely affected, and in particular those disproportionately so, by the decision?
  • What is GM’s estimate of the number of layoffs at those supplier companies as a result of Lordstown’s upcoming unallocated status? 
  • In our meeting, you agreed to keep us up to date on Lordstown’s status.  Will you commit to communicating openly to Lordstown employees, the Cruze supply chain companies, and the affected communities about the future of the plant throughout the unallocation process?
  • How many Ohio workers will lose their jobs– both at GM and throughout the supply chain – if GM goes through with the 8,000 announced layoffs in 2019?

Future of the Lordstown Plant

  • GM has justified the layoff announcement by saying the company plans to move away from small cars and increase its focus on next generation vehicles, like electric and autonomous cars.  Does GM expect to produce electric vehicle sedans or will it focus on producing electric SUVs or crossover vehicles?
  • What would be the cost, if any, of retooling the plant to produce an electric vehicle of comparable size to the Chevy Cruze?
  • We have seen a video of the groundbreaking of the brand new paint shop being built at GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico, presumably for the Blazer.   What is the cost of building that new paint shop?
  • Will you commit to producing in the United States all of GM’s electric vehicles for sale in the United States?

Please respond to these questions no later than December 21, 2018.  We want Lordstown workers, their families, and the impacted communities to have the information they need to prepare for any consequences of GM’s announcement.  We appreciate your willingness to keep an open mind about the future of Lordstown.  GM could decide today that Lordstown will remain an important asset in the company’s future, and we hope you do so.  We are committed to working with you to keep the plant open.

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