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« Trump: The First Year

Ryan, Brown bring fight for GM Lordstown to the White House



Published: Thu, November 29, 2018 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Graig Graziosi,

Jordyn Grzelewski

and David Skolnick

news@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

As news of General Motors’ decision to cease production of the Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze and idle the Lordstown plant next year continued to ripple throughout the Mahoning Valley, some of the Valley’s elected officials took the fight to save the plant to Washington, D.C.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, met with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday to discuss GM’s decision to idle five plants in North America, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, was to speak with President Donald Trump on Wednesday afternoon about the matter, but The Vindicator had no confirmation of that meeting Wednesday night.

“Earlier [Wednesday] morning, I had a face-to-face conversation with Vice President Mike Pence about GM Lordstown,” Ryan said. “I told him I want to work with this administration to put a car back in Lordstown as soon as possible. I look forward to further discussions with the administration and my colleagues in Congress about how to make this economy work for American workers.”

Ryan also will have a joint news conference this morning with other Democratic members of Congress at which they will “[urge] General Motors to reverse course on potential auto-plant closures and for President Trump to act and protect U.S. manufacturing jobs,” according to Ryan’s office.

In a call with reporters earlier Wednesday, Brown said he hoped to gain the president’s support for his upcoming American Cars, American Jobs ACT bill, which would offer consumers a $3,500 discount on many American-built and assembled cars, trucks and SUVs and would revoke the Republican corporate tax cut on auto manufacturers that ship jobs overseas.

“This week, people’s lives are being upended in the Mahoning Valley. Parents are having difficult conversations around kitchen tables with their families while people on Wall Street celebrate,” Brown said. ”Wall Street doesn’t appreciate or value work. They see workers as a cost to be minimized. We need to remove the incentive for companies to send jobs overseas and build incentives for them to build here.”

Trump also tweeted about the situation Wednesday, suggesting the U.S. should consider imposing tariffs on imported cars. He wrote in a series of tweets: “The reason that the small-truck business in the U.S. is such a go-to favorite is that, for many years, tariffs of 25 percent have been put on small trucks coming into our country,” which refers to the so-called “chicken tax” the U.S. imposed on light-truck imports starting in the 1960s.

“If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here and GM would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland,” Trump said. “Get smart Congress. Also, the countries that send us cars have taken advantage of the U.S. for decades. The President has great power on this issue – Because of the GM event, it is being studied now!”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Trump blamed the closure of the Lordstown Assembly Plant in part on Brown, saying the area “wasn’t properly represented” by the Democratic senator. The president did not call out the state’s other senator, Republican Rob Portman; Republican Gov. John Kasich; or any of the state’s congress members, 12 out of 16 of whom are Republicans.

Brown responded to the president’s comments on Twitter, saying he would “compare my record standing up for Ohio and American workers to yours any day. Instead of giving companies tax breaks to shut down American factories and lay off workers, why haven’t you supported the American Cars American Jobs Act?”

Rich Rankin, United Auto Workers Region 2-B director and representative for UAW workers in Ohio and Indiana, said GM owes the workers for the bailout the company received during the 2008 financial collapse.

“When GM was at their worst point, the American taxpayers stepped up, and we invested in them. In my opinion and the opinion of people all over, GM has an obligation to invest back in us,” Rankin said. “We’re not going to rest until GM fills every plant in the country that’s idled with work and workers. That’s what it’s going to take for us to stop pressuring them.”

In other Lordstown news Wednesday, Drive It Home, a grass-roots coalition that recently launched to rally support for the plant, announced it will have a Vigil for Hope at 3:15 p.m. today outside the plant. Workers and their families will gather to pray for the future of the plant. Drive It Home is also asking community members to light a candle for the plant and use the group’s profile frame on Facebook to show their support for workers. The frame features the hashtag “Save Lordstown.”

The Ohio Democratic Party also is rallying support for the plant in the form of an online petition called “Tell General Motors: Protect Ohio Jobs.” To sign the petition, visit OhioDems.org.

Meanwhile, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said: “I’m upset that we bailed GM out, gave them tax breaks and they stuck it to the workers. It’s not fair and its un-American. I’m upset about it. It doesn’t seem right to not give us another product or something else to build there.”

The impact of the GM closing to the area will be significant, he said. “It’s going to hurt everyone from my [law] business to restaurants to hospitals and doctors; everyone will feel the ripple effect,” Betras said.

“Since [Trump’s] been president, GM has idled that plant,” Betras said. “He didn’t focus on that plant. He didn’t lift a finger to do anything about it. Mr. President, please go twist an arm and get us another product there.”

Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe defended Trump.

“What’s really disgusting is how Tim Ryan, Sherrod Brown and Dave Betras use the Lordstown issue as an excuse to criticize President Trump, who has done more to boost American jobs than any president in memory,” Munroe said. “Trump has been around for less than two years and has done his part to make the economy stronger. Tim Ryan has been around for nearly 20 years, and the Valley continues to lag the rest of the country. What has he done? By almost any measure, U.S. jobs, unemployment, personal income are at their best levels ever. This includes some historic numbers for all, including African-Americans, Hispanics, women and youth.”

As for the impending closing, Munroe said: “On one hand, we need to be grateful to GM for the 50-plus years of helping thousands of Valley residents put food on the table and kids through college. On the other hand, it’s a difficult pill to swallow for all those affected by the halt in Cruze production.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, sent a letter to the American headquarters of 11 major automotive companies urging them to consider the possibility of “a modern automotive manufacturing facility and workforce that may soon become available for investment or business expansion” at the GM location.

The letter was sent to Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Volkswagen AG, Kia, Hyundai, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.


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