GM Lordstown deserves a slice of investment pie


Good news and bad news roll out today from the General Motors Co.

The bad news, of course, is that today is the final weekday workday for more than 1,200 employees at the nation’s No. 1 automaker’s sprawling Lordstown assembly plant. As announced several months ago, GM is laying off the entire third shift of workers producing the Chevrolet Cruze compact car effective Monday.

The adverse ripple effects of that massive job contraction at the Mahoning Valley’s largest industrial employer will be felt far and wide in coming weeks and months.

The good news for the company and its American workforce came earlier this week. GM announced Tuesday that it will invest more than $1 billion into upgrading its facilities and retaining and creating thousands of jobs

Our strong hope is that some of that good news can work to counteract and cushion the communitywide blow the termination of the third shift of workers and of hundreds of other associated layoffs at nearby suppliers.

Last November when the layoffs were first announced, we encouraged the workforce, the salaried leadership at the Lordstown Complex, along with supporting Valley leaders and institutions, to galvanize a campaign to restore lost jobs and to stabilize the economic anchor that the plant so clearly represents to our region.

But any such campaign must be grounded in realities, not in emotional platitudes predicated largely in myth. Such misinformation has been trumpeted by today’s new U.S. President Donald J. Trump and others.

As union and company officials repeatedly have explained, this month’s indefinite layoffs at the plant do not result from production of one low-selling version of the Cruze – a hatchback manufactured in Mexico. It is the product of much broader changes in consumer tastes toward larger gas-guzzling vehicles spurred on by lower gasoline prices in recent years.

In fact, domestic production of the Cruze sedan is now limited exclusively to the Lordstown plant. Therefore any anger targeted south of our border is largely misdirected.

NO CREDIT TO TRUMP

Similarly, none of the promising news of GM’s $1 billion investment results directly from the threats made by Trump and his minions. Corporate leaders have stressed that decisions on investments are made months and even years before they are formally announced. Trump’s Twitter boasts designed to take personal credit for the new round of investment are misguided as well.

Given those realities, we hope leaders of the two major labor unions at the plant – United Auto Workers Locals 1112 and 1714 – in concert with plant management make it clear to GM leaders in Detroit that the Valley plant deserves a slice of this year’s investment pie.

After all, quality ratings for the Lordstown plant – the largest in North America – and its product have ranked consistently high. Union-management ties at the plant have strengthened greatly in recent years, and the automaker has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the facility to make it a showcase of its global operations.

To be sure, much rides on the ongoing success of GM Lordstown.

Glenn Johnson, president of the UAW Local 1112, argues that the plant has plenty of room for upgrades.“There’s a couple of projects that would require funding for us, and we would be happy to take advantage of that. I’ve always said that if GM is willing to continue to invest here, we will take it and make the best of it.”

One such project could be progress on the Lordstown Logistics Center, one of many industrial parks of suppliers near GM plants that the company is promoting to lower its transportation and supply costs.

We hope plant leaders at all levels do not settle for merely playing a waiting game for tastes among American drivers to swing back toward smaller low-cost vehicles such as the Cruze. There’s no telling how very long that wait may be.

Instead, plant leaders should target and mount an aggressive drive for additional improvements that could result in at least some of the laid-off workers returning to the assembly line. To do otherwise would leave far too many lives and economic livelihoods in our region hanging in limbo.

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