GM, Don't walk out on Lordstown: Ohio Senators Portman and Brown's joint appeal

Ohio has stood by General Motors. Now General Motors needs to stand by Ohio.

GM recently announced plans to lay off its final shift of workers and close its Lordstown, Ohio, plant in March 2019. This comes after GM announced earlier this year that it plans to build the new Chevy Blazer in Mexico—a decision that came the same day the company ended the second shift at Lordstown. GM has eliminated nearly 3,000 jobs at the plant over the past two years, and their decision last month to close the plant could cost at least 1,500 more.

As Ohio’s senators, we know that our autoworkers are some of the best in the world. And if you love this country, you fight for the people who make it work—people like the workers at Lordstown.

The first GM cars rolled off the assembly lines at Lordstown more than 50 years ago. Since that time, GM has become ingrained in the Mahoning Valley, where the resiliency of the workforce is as strong as the steel the region is known for. From bull market through the Great Recession, Lordstown has stood by GM. Now GM, Trumbull County's single largest employer, is about to walk out on Lordstown.

That would be a huge mistake and the wrong decision for GM. Just this year, J.D. Power ranked the Lordstown plant as GM’s best plant in the United States, Canada and Mexico for quality. That’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of these world-class employees.

We understand that consumer trends change and there is a weakening market for the Chevy Cruze made at the plant. We also know that the workers at Lordstown have proven themselves time and time again, and GM has options available that can satisfy both their shareholders and the hardworking people of Northeast Ohio.

That’s what we recently met to discuss with GM CEO Mary Barra in Washington, D.C. We had a very candid discussion where, among other things, we urged her to bring a new product or other products to the plant.

GM has announced plans to produce 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. We can think of no better place to locate one or more of those models than at the established, award-winning plant at Lordstown. GM has suggested looking for opportunities to move workers to other plants, but the number of jobs in the GM network are finite, and plenty of workers will not want to pack up and move from their homes. (Understandably so.)

We will continue working at every level to secure a decision that saves Lordstown. Locally, the Drive It Home campaign combines the strengths of United Automobile Workers and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce to show the support we have in the area. We have spoken with Governor Kasich and Governor-elect DeWine to ensure we are unified in our objectives. And we have both spoken with President Trump, who committed to helping us keep this assembly plant in Ohio.

In the end, Mary Barra said that while she doesn’t want to raise expectations, she will keep an open mind about the future of the plant. We remain frustrated with GM’s handling of this decision and disappointed with how the hardworking employees, who by sweat and toil have made GM what it is today, have been treated throughout this process.

Following our meeting, we sent GM a joint letter with a number of follow-up questions about their decision-making process. Among other things, we want to know what factors will play into whether another vehicle is allocated to Lordstown, if they’ve fully assessed the costs of a shutdown, the downstream effect this decision will have on our economy—in Ohio and across the country, and whether the electric vehicles GM intends to roll out in the future will be made in the United States.

We want answers, but the people of Lordstown deserve more than that. They deserve the opportunity to once again show what they can do. They deserve the chance to continue making cars in the community many of them have called home for their entire lives, and to be treated with the respect and dignity they have earned through the region’s decades-long commitment to GM.

Republican Rob Portman is the junior U.S. senator from Ohio and previously served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Democrat Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio and author of "Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed."