Dems fume as GM layoff start soon

By: - February 5, 2019 9:59 am

GM headquarters, Detroit | Image by Alberto Adán from Pixabay

Detroit-based auto manufacturer General Motors will begin thousands of job layoffs in the coming weeks, according to media reports.

The company has become a lightning rod for Michigan’s Democratic congressional delegation. At the North American International Auto Show last month, lawmakers expressed anger at the manufacturer for moving to cut jobs during a time of booming profits, as the Advance has previously reported.

2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit | Nick Manes

Automakers have said they’re going through a period of technological transition. They’ve also been hit by the President Trump administration’s trade and tariff policy. Critics have said that the GOP-controlled Congress’ 2017 tax cuts allowed GM to reap profits while cutting workers.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint), who serves in a leadership position within the Democratic-led U.S. House, is the latest member of Michigan’s elected congressional representatives to lay into the company.

“After huge corporate tax cuts and years of record operating profits, it is unfortunate that General Motors has chosen once again to lay off thousands of Michigan workers,” Kildee said in a statement on Monday.

Kildee also noted the 2009 federal bailout of the company, along with Chrysler, as both firms went through bankruptcies and the federal government injected billions to save the companies.

Dan Kildee

The government lost more than $11 billion on those bailout deals, according to Reuters.

“Just a decade ago, the American people and the federal government stepped up to save General Motors in its time of need,” Kildee said. “Now it is incumbent on General Motors to have the back of American workers and invest in American manufacturing.”

GM executives have defended the move to trim its workforce, saying its needed to keep the company viable as it seeks to undertake initiatives to ramp up development of electric and self-driving vehicles.

“The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,” GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra said in November. “We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.”

Other Democrats have slammed GM for its announced layoffs.

Andy Levin and Haley Stevens at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit | Nick Manes

“I’m really mad about [plant closures and job losses],” U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) said. “I feel like the company should be responsible not just to their shareholders, but to their workers, their communities and to our planet. And I don’t think our companies are acting that way right now.”

Similarly, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), said at the NAIAS that Ford continues to make vehicles in the U.S. — although the Dearborn carmaker is pink-slipping employees, too — while GM is shifting production to Mexico.

To Kildee, that dynamic makes for a significant problem.

“We didn’t rescue the American auto industry to save jobs in Mexico,” Kildee said. “The American taxpayer rescued General Motors to support American workers.”

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.