Ohio Politicians Remain Cautious About Sale Of Lordstown Plant
New jobs are planned for three General Motors plants in Ohio, and even more new jobs could come to the idled plant in Lordstown. But many unanswered questions remain for both workers and politicians.
Gov. Mike DeWine was on the Statehouse lawn Wednesday, enjoying displays from tourist attractions throughout the state, when President Donald Trump tweeted: “Great News for Ohio!” Trump went on to say he had spoken to Mary Barra, Chief Executive Officer of General Motors.
Trump says Barra informed him that, subject to agreement with the union, GM would be selling the idled Lordstown plant to Cincinnati-based Workhorse.
DeWine seemed to be caught off guard by the announcement. He took a break to talk to Barra on the phone. Then, he told reporters she confirmed the plant, pending approval by the UAW, would be sold to Workhorse. Still, DeWine’s tone lacked the enthusiasm of Trump’s tweet.
“I’m just by nature a cautious person and until I know all of the facts, it sounds like good news," DeWine said.
A short while later, DeWine gathered reporters inside the Statehouse where he said two things must happen for the Lordstown deal viable: the UAW has to approve it and the U.S. Postal Service has to choose Workhorse as the supplier for a $6 billion contract to provide the electric powered trucks for its fleet.
“This is a step, but we have a long way to go, and some things have to fall into place and actually happen, but we are going to do everything we can to assist those in happening," DeWine said.
Workhorse already has contracts for some electric delivery vans for United Parcel Service and FedEx. But its latest annual report shows it lost millions of dollars.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted says that Postal Service contract is crucial for the 3,000 estimated jobs at Lordstown to come to fruition.
“This company has been trying to be a leader in this technology over a long period of time, but look, there’s nobody at this point and time who is making money in this space in this industry,” Husted says. “That’s why the governor’s emphasis on having a sustainable customer through the U.S. Postal Service is such a big deal for the sustainability of any long-term production in Lordstown.”
In a written statement, UAW vice president Terry Dittes said his organization’s position is unequivocal. He noted a federal lawsuit filed by the UAW on the closure of the Lordstown plant is pending and the UAW will continue to protect the contractual rights of its members there.
Dittes says national negotiations on product placement will take place in July, and he adds the union will continue to monitor the situation to determine what course of action will most benefit its workers.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown) says bringing jobs to the plant is good news in the long-term, but not necessarily beneficial for those laid-off GM workers.
"It's not gonna have much of an impact on the housing market in the short term or the workers in the short term, but all in all it's a net positive, because there's something going in the facility," Ryan said. "And we're gonna have to work really hard to try and grow the jobs over the years to try and make it as impactful, hopefully, as General Motors was at one point."
Ryan says he wants to learn more about Workhorse, and hopes they stay true to their current plan to employ those same GM workers.
"The UAW will have all kinds of issues on the table I'm sure, whether there's an opportunity for people who have left to come back, maybe," Ryan said. "But again, they'll be in a different company with a different pension system, so I'm not sure how all that works, but the UAW is going to be front and center in negotiating the rest of this deal."
Though it might to too early to celebrate jobs coming to Lordstown, DeWine says Barra did give the state something to celebrate. GM plans to invest $700 million dollars into three of its Ohio plants – Moraine, Parma and Toledo – a move that could create about 450 new jobs.