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GM's Mary Barra to Face Pressure on Cutbacks From US Lawmakers

Dec. 5, 2018
Barra will meet this week with lawmakers from states hit by the automaker’s plans to shed as many as 15,000 jobs and cancel production at five plants in North America.

Even in a hyper-polarized Washington, there’s been one area of consensus lately on Capitol Hill: anger at General Motors Co. and its CEO, Mary Barra.

Barra will face that ire during two days of meetings this week with lawmakers from states hit by the automaker’s plans to shed as many as 15,000 jobs and cancel production at five plants in North America. President Donald Trump and lawmakers from both parties have lobbed criticism at the largest U.S. automaker and pledged to pressure Barra to reverse course.

Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Republican Rob Portman plan to push Barra to save the automaker’s plant in Lordstown, Ohio, when they meet with her on Wednesday, according to a joint statement. GM plans to stop producing the slow-selling Chevrolet Cruze compact car at the plant next year, leaving the factory without a product to build.

Barra will also meet Wednesday with Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat whose congressional district is home to the Lordstown plant. He said he hoped for a “productive conversation.”

GM’s planned cutbacks are “not just impacting jobs, but the entire community,” Ryan said in a statement. “It’s my hope that Mary Barra and I can find a path forward, bring a new product to the Lordstown plant, and keep these jobs in the Mahoning Valley.”

Barra will meet later on Nov. 5 with lawmakers from Maryland, according to a person familiar with the matter who was granted anonymity to discuss the plans. GM plans to end production at a transmission and electric motor plant outside Baltimore next year.

In a Nov. 30 letter to Barra asking for a meeting, Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Representatives Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Jamie Raskin, all Democrats, called GM’s decision to cease operations there “an example of extremely poor corporate citizenship,” in part citing taxpayer funds funneled to the plant.

Michigan lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Gary Peters, will meet with Barra on Nov. 6, according to congressional aides. GM also plans to close its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant that makes the Chevrolet Impala sedan and Volt plug-in hybrid.

GM declined to comment on the meetings.

Trump fired off several angry tweets at GM last week after the company announced the plans, threatening in one post to cut off subsidies for GM such as a federal tax credit for buyers of electric vehicles, which experts doubt can be done unilaterally.

In another tweet, the president raised the prospect of additional tariffs on auto imports, saying “G.M. would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan & Maryland” if traditional passenger cars were subject to a 25% import tax.

By Ryan Beene

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