Ohio senators push GM to reverse course

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- The glare of the media’s spotlight fell squarely on General Motors C.E.O. Mary Barra ahead of a high-profile meeting on Capitol Hill. Ohio’s senators are applying political pressure -- aiming to get the company to reverse course -- with thousands of Northeast Ohio jobs hanging in the balance.

"We have pushed her hard," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said immediately following the meeting.

Brown and his colleague Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) want the company to pump the brakes on plans to close five facilities in North America. The Chevy Cruze produced in Lordstown, Ohio isn’t selling well.

Portman and Brown said GM should shift production at the the assembly Plant into electric vehicles or S.U.V.s rather than shutting down the community’s economic engine.

"We’re not asking for charity," said Portman, "what we’re asking for is to give the community and the workforce the opportunity to once again show what they can do."

Barra argues it makes more sense to move workers to other plants than retool plants like Lordstown. "Anytime we have to make decisions like we did, they are incredibly difficult," she said in opening her remarks to the meda.

General Motors paid back its 2008 bailout, but Barra said the company does still have a moral obligation to the American public. She argues this choice is meant to meet that duty. By closing plants, she argues the company will remain stable, protecting 90,000 jobs and retirees’ pensions.

"We’re trying to do the right thing," she emphasized.

Canfield’s Jimmy Dahman didn't buy it. He interrupted Barra's prepared comments to the media, making it clear he believes the company’s bottom line shouldn’t come before his friends and neighbors.

"To have them cut these jobs a month before Christmas is a slap in the face," he said in an interview after the formal press conference concluded.

Ohio’s not alone in ramping up the pressure campaign on G.M. to keep plants open. Michigan lawmakers will meet with Barra Thursday.

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