Warren facility made transmissions for Cadillac XTS, Chevy Impala.

The dust has settled on another round of Democratic primary debates. Michigan returns to normal. And 30 minutes down the road from the debate stage General Motors (GM) is getting ready to close another auto plant.

The company announced last November that it would be idling indefinitely four such plants: One near Baltimore, another in Lordstown, Ohio and two in the Detroit area - including Warren.

The Warren plant - which will close on Friday - made six-speed transmissions for two GM models that are being discontinued: The Chevy Impala and the Cadillac XTS. It's got approximately 260 hourly workers who are members of the United Auto Workers, according to the union. And the company says it will offer them jobs elsewhere to those workers who don't choose (or aren't eligible) to retire.

The workers, though, are a little salty about the closure. And they refer to the significant concessions the UAW made to the company during the Great Recession, when the company was at a low point. One told Michigan Radio:

"I was happy to do so, to save my job, to save the company that I work for. And now that they're on top and still making record-breaking profits, they're not willing to do that to save us."

The workers at Warren are laying the blame for this closure and the significant disruption in their lives at the company's feet. A few of them, like the president of the UAW local there, said they were hoping for some political support as the Democratic debates came to southeast Michigan.

Well ... they got some support. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Flint, Michigan joined Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez at a press conference across the street from the Warren facility, where they correctly pointed out that President Trump (despite loudly proclaiming otherwise) hasn't done much to stem high profile factory closures by American automakers.

That's not to say the Trump administration isn't paying attention, it is - it's just not doing a very good job of coordinating a policy response to restructuring plans from companies like GM and Ford that displace lots of American workers.

Here's an example in action: Public officials near the recently shuttered GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio are scrambling today for details after Vice President Mike Pence commented publicly that an electric-truck manufacturer had secured the funding to buy the facility -- an obviously important step before production of electric trucks could begin there. But the vice president, apparently, didn't bother to pass along any of the details to the locals.

... didn't get very specific about the policies that could affect the workers up the street at Warren. It's a primary debate! They never get specific!

For what it's worth, though: While it certainly wasn't a consensus, a lot of the rhetoric on the stage over the past two evenings was aimed at trade deals cut without sufficient buy-in from American labor. And it's not like some of the candidates haven't been in Warren, Michigan in months past to specifically to talk about manufacturing job loss and bad trade deals.

GM says 60 of the 262 workers at Warren have put in for transfers to other facilities. Others are retiring. And the UAW plans to make re-opening Warren and other shuttered plants a part of the next round of contract negotiations.

Continue Reading

on americanmanufacturing.org

Featured