Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was right to temper President Donald J. Trump’s self-aggrandizing announcement last week that the idled GM Lordstown car assembly plant will be repurposed to build “Electric Trucks.”
Here’s what Republican Trump tweeted Wednesday morning:
“GREAT NEWS FOR OHIO! Just spoke to Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, who informed me that, subject to a UAW agreement etc., GM will be selling their beautiful Lordstown Plant to Workhorse, where they plan to build Electric Trucks. GM will also be spending $700,000,000 in Ohio ...” and “.... in 3 separate locations, creating another 450 jobs. I have been working nicely with GM to get this done. Thank you to Mary B, your GREAT Governor, and Senator Rob Portman. With all the car companies coming back, and much more, THE USA IS BOOMING!”
Several hours later, however, Republican Gov. DeWine delivered this message to the people of the Mahoning Valley: Don’t pop the champagne corks just yet.
Indeed, DeWine’s comments stood in sharp contrast to the president’s chest- pounding tweets.
“It’s not the day to celebrate yet for the Mahoning Valley or Lordstown or the workers,” he told Vindicator Reporter David Skolnick. “For this to really work, it’s going to be important for Workhorse to get the contract with the postal service.”
Workhorse Group, a Cincinnati-area company that makes electric trucks, and a newly formed affiliate have plans to buy the Lordstown plant from GM to build the next generation of U.S. Postal Service delivery vehicles.
But as Gov. DeWine pointed out, Workhorse is one of several companies vying for the Postal Service’s lucrative order.
Other bidders include Auburn Hills-based Mahindra Automotive North America and Ford Motor Co., according to the Detroit News.
USPS spokeswoman Kimberly Frum said testing of five prototypes for the service’s next-generation delivery vehicles wrapped up in March. The postal service is expected to go out for bids this summer, Frum said. She would not comment further on the contract.
DeWine said he intends to lead a delegation to meet with USPS officials.
What about General Motors?
But given that Ford is in the mix, Workhorse could certainly use a major partner. One that immediately comes to mind is General Motors.
Consider the following statement from Chief Executive Officer Barra after President Trump had tweeted about the impending sale of the Lordstown plant:
“We remain committed to growing manufacturing jobs in the U.S,, including in Ohio, and we see this development as a potential win-win for everyone. Workhorse has innovative technologies that could help preserve Lordstown’s more than than 50-year tradition of vehicle assembly work.”
GM could benefit greatly from Workhorse’s “innovative technologies”.
That said, Barra’s talk about preserving the plant’s tradition drips with irony. After all, she pulled the rug out from under the Mahoning Valley.
GM’s idling of the Lordstown complex has resulted in the loss of thousands of good-paying jobs. The plant had 4,500 union and management employees when production of the top-selling Chevrolet Cruze was at its peak.
According to a study by Cleveland State University, for every four GM jobs lost at the Lordstown plant since 2017, two more supply chain-related positions and one more consumer service industry job were eliminated.
The study also found that the end of the third and second shifts in 2017 and 2018, respectively, will have an economic impact exceeding $5 billion.
Thus, when Barra characterizes the takeover of the Lordstown complex by Workhorse as a “win-win for everyone,” we have to ask: What happens if the company fails to secure the U.S. Postal Service contract for delivery vehicles?
Until more is known about Workhorse and its new affiliated company, we find ourselves agreeing with a statement from United Auto Workers International: “General Motors should assign a product to the Lordstown facility and continue operating it.
“A federal lawsuit filed by the UAW over the closing of the Lordstown, Baltimore and Warren facilities is still pending, and the UAW will continue its effort to protect the contractual rights of its members at these locations.”
National contract talks are scheduled to begin in July.
“We will monitor this situation as it develops to determine what course of action will most benefit UAW-represented workers,” UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a statement.
As the governor pointed out, last week’s announcement about the possible sale of the Lordstown plant is just the beginning of a long journey into the unknown.