Chris White, DCNF
Local politicians in Ohio say the Democratic Party should realize GM’s decision to lay off thousands of people in the battle ground state is unlikely to affect President Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 election.
Ohioans are blaming massive layoffs on GM, not Trump, according to a report Friday from the Financial Times, which interviewed local Democratic operatives and labor experts in the state. The report comes less than a month after the automaker announced it would cut roughly 11,000 people in North America and will idle factories in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Canada.
“The coasters (people on the West and East coast) and liberals all want to talk about the blue wall suddenly being rebuilt … but nobody is paying attention to the new ‘red wall,’” labor expert John Russo told FT. Another citizen mirrored his comments, noting GM’s decision to jump headfirst into electric vehicles apparently surprised the president.
Linda Balogh, a 52-year-old Ohioan and Democrat who found herself without a job after the layoff spree, told reporters she doesn’t think her colleagues, “think it has anything to do with Trump … I think he was blindsided.” She is about to lose her job at GM’s Lordstown plant near Younstown, Ohio — local politicians warn that the layoffs will likely amplify Trump’s message.
“The fever has not broken for Trump here, not at all, it has been tarnished a bit, but we still have Trump fever, it’s just not as high,” Democratic party chair of Mahoning County, Dave Betras told reporters. Mahoning County houses Youngstown and was the center point for the president’s unprecedented victory in 2016.
Politicians and ordinary citizens criticized the decision, which GM CEO Mary Barra says was made to focus on electric vehicles. “It’s all about greed. It’s all about putting more in their pockets,” one employee said, according to a CBS report in November.
“The bad thing is to get this news on the day after we come back from Thanksgiving,” another employee noted.
Even prominent Democratic lawmakers wasted no time criticizing Barra.
“GM owes the community answers on how the rest of the supply chain will be impacted & what consequences its disastrous decision will have,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, wrote in a Nov. 26 tweet following the announcement.
GM is one of several auto companies, including Tesla, that is seeking an extension of tax credits for those purchasing electric vehicles. The company helped create the so-called EV Drive Coalition on Nov. 13 as many automakers approach the cap of 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer before the credits phase out, which some analysts say could harm GM.
Trump, for his part, thrashed Barra, and even threatened to cut the company’s electric vehicle subsidy — this sense of righteousness indignation likely resonates for many in a state the president won by a large margin in 2016.
“Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico & China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get! We are now looking at cutting all @GM subsidies, including for electric cars,” the president noted in a Nov. 27 tweet.
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