Mary Barra on Capitol Hill: “A strong GM is the best way for me to maintain the 90,000-plus jobs we have across the U.S., in addition to all the people who have retired from GM and their pensions.” Photo credit: REUTERS
WASHINGTON — Ohio senators Sherrod Brown and Robert Portman urged General Motors CEO Mary Barra to accelerate contract talks with union officials and decisions on where to build new products so the state’s Lordstown plant can continue operating.
Barra, meeting lawmakers Wednesday on Capitol Hill, said the company was focused on finding transfer and retraining opportunities for some of the 6,000 workers impacted by last week’s decision to discontinue making several slow-selling models such as the hybrid-electric Chevrolet Volt.
The GM chief deflected criticism that the company owes it to workers to keep them employed after accepting a multi-billion rescue package from the federal government a decade ago.
“We will be forever grateful for the assistance the U.S. government provided GM, but we are trying to make sure we’re good corporate citizens and continue to provide jobs and transportation that customers want in this country,” Barra told reporters after emerging from a meeting with the senators. “That’s the most responsible thing we can do to thank the American taxpayers,” she said, adding that GM has invested $22 billion in the U.S. since 2009.
The automaker is restructuring to focus more resources on electric and automated vehicles, and mobility services, in response to market signals that customers are losing interest in sedans and car ownership. Barra said keeping GM viable in a period of industry turmoil would provide the greatest security for GM workers.
“A strong GM is the best way for me to maintain the 90,000-plus jobs we have across the U.S., in addition to all the people who have retired from GM and their pensions,” she said.
The Lordstown plant, which makes the Chevy Cruze, is one of two assembly plants in the U.S. on the chopping block, along with two parts plants and another assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario. Lawmakers have expressed outrage over GM’s surprise decision, saying taxpayers and workers stood with GM during its time of need and deserve a chance to make the new product lines.