Politics

Trump Again Blames Labor for Lordstown Closing

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – President Donald Trump again blamed organized labor for the closing of the General Motors Lordstown Complex during an appearance in Lima Wednesday.

Trump, whose remarks were live-streamed, told workers and guests at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, where the M1 Abrams tank is manufactured, that union leaders were dishonest and he wanted to deal directly with union members.

“They could have kept General Motors. They could have kept it in that gorgeous plant in Lordstown,” the president said. He blamed high union dues – which are paid by workers, not the company – for the plant closing. “Lower your dues,” he said.

Trump’s comments came just days after he took to Twitter to take GM CEO Mary Barra and United Auto Workers Local 1112 President Dave Green to task for the plant closing. The final Chevrolet Cruze came off the line at the Lordstown Complex March 6. A skeleton crew remains at work making replacement parts for the sedan.

Trump previously said Barra blamed the UAW for the shutdown, a claim a GM spokesman denied.

He reiterated his call yesterday for GM not to wait for negotiations with the UAW later this year and instead to begin discussions to reopen the plant immediately.

“We have the best economy we’ve ever had. We have the lowest employment — unemployment that we’ve had in 51 years; soon will be the record of all time,” the president said.

“And what’s going on with General Motors? Get that plant open or sell it to somebody and they’ll open it. Everybody wants it. Sell it to somebody or open it yourselves. Get it going now and the UAW will help you,” Trump said. “The UAW — you’re going to help. The UAW just promised they’re going to help. Get it open now. Don’t wait. They said they have discussions coming up in September, October. I said, why not tomorrow? Why not on Monday? What do you have to wait months for? Get the discussions going.  Get it open.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, called Trump’s comments “empty rhetoric” in a news release issued by his office. And he described Trump’s comments about Green “disrespectful” and pointed to the widespread impact of the plant idling, which cost workers their livelihood and is forcing families to move from the community.

“This closure has a ripple effect that touches everything and everyone. Northeast Ohio is set to lose more than $3 billion in economic activity, and what is the president doing to help? He attacked union leaders like Dave Green, who are fighting hard to save this plant and standing up for its employees,” he said. “That’s not leadership, and it’s beneath the office of the president of the United States.”

Added U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in a statement: Trump “failed to stand up for Lordstown” as GM shuttered the plant and laid off thousands of workers.

During a rally at the Covelli Centre in July 2017, the president told those attendance to not sell their houses because the area’s factories would soon be reopening.

Trump might promise one thing, Brown said, but “continues to pursue policies that betray Ohio service members, veterans, families and workers.”

Brown, D-Ohio, also accused Trump of hurting U.S. military missions by proposing to take money programmed for military projects to fund his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border by declaring a national emergency. An analysis earlier this week showed $112 million for projects in Ohio that could be defunded, including upgrades at Youngstown Air Reserve Station and Camp Garfield.

“President Trump claims he wants to help workers and support our military, yet his actions tell a different story,” Brown said.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who accompanied Trump on his visit to Lima, sought to highlight the president’s fiscal 2020 budget request for production of Abrams Tanks and Stryker combat vehicles at the Lima plant, which President Barack Obama had proposed closing.

The president’s 2020 budget request includes $1.75 billion to upgrade 165 M1 Abrams tanks, as well as funds to increase the rate of production. The boost represents a $226 million increase from last fiscal year’s $1.52 billion, Portman said. Trump’s visit provided him with a firsthand look at “the great work being done” in Lima.

“The best tanks and armored vehicles in the world are made in Lima, Ohio,” Portman said. The center and its workers are not just making the country safer but also are “supporting our allies around the world during some very dangerous times,” he added.

Trump told the audience that his predecessor said he would never bring manufacturing back. “We’re bringing it back in record numbers,” he said.

Ryan, though a spokesman, and Brown hit back at the assertion that Obama didn’t support manufacturing.

“That is a ridiculous claim. Obama saved the auto industry and helped create the first national manufacturing institute right here in Youngstown with America Makes,” said Ryan’s communications director, Michael Zetts.

“I was proud to work with President Obama to support manufacturing jobs in Ohio by creating advanced manufacturing hubs in Youngstown and around the country, increasing investments in the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and promoting policies that helped manufacturers recover from the recession and put Ohioans back to work,” Brown added.

Pictured at top: Trump prepares to address workers at the plant.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.