U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said a Wednesday meeting with General Motors CEO Mary Barra did nothing to lift his hopes that production will resume at the company's Lordstown assembly plant any time soon.
Brown, a Democrat, Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, and other members of Ohio's congressional delegation met with Barra to discuss the future of the Lordstown plant, where GM has been cutting back production for years before idling it completely in March. The company cited soft sales of the compact Cruze that it made there.
Elected officials and other Ohioans blasted GM for the move, citing the fact that taxpayers put up billions to bail out the automaker in 2009 and 2010 and that President Donald Trump's tax cuts of 2017 showered an estimated $157 million in additional benefits on the company.
Trump in 2017 exhorted a Youngstown audience, “Don’t move. Don’t sell your house." But Brown said Barra on Wednesday had a different message for the thousands in Northeast Ohio who'd lost jobs.
"It was not as productive as I'd hoped," Brown said. "She said she didn't want to create false hopes."
GM last month said it was in talks to sell the plant to Cincinnati-based Workhorse Group to produce electric delivery trucks, a move touted on Twitter by Trump. But that project would only create up to 450 jobs, the company's finances are shaky and it's unclear whether the pay and benefits would be on a par with those of the United Auto Workers members who worked there previously.
Portman on Tuesday and Brown on Wednesday said they both preferred that GM resume production in the sprawling, 54-year-old plant — particularly as GM is announcing plans to build 20 new electric vehicles by 2023.
"We continue to have questions about GM’s decision to close the plant instead of bringing production of one of its 20 new electric vehicles there," Portman said in a statement issued by his office after the meeting.
"My first choice remains for GM to reinvest in Lordstown, but we also need to hear more about this proposal to sell the plant to Workhorse and whether it will work. In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to work with GM, the UAW, and other key stakeholders on this matter."
Brown said that in Barra's talks with Ohio members of Congress, the GM leader declined to make any commitments to Lordstown as "she continues to point to UAW negotiations in September." The union, however, made big concessions during the Great Recession a decade ago and made $117 million more in an attempt to save the Lordstown plant in 2017.
"Her comments were not well received," Brown said.
The Ohio senator also criticized GM's "well-paid executives" — Barra's 2017 compensation was $22 million — for not understanding what a hardship it is for some Northeast Ohio workers to move elsewhere for GM jobs, as some have been offered.
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