Opinion: GM should value American workforce

Brenda Lawrence

Despite it being the holiday season, American workers are again receiving lumps of coal in the form of harmful corporate decisions and misguided federal policies. General Motors’ devastating announcement about layoffs are upending Michigan families and will cause a destructive ripple effect throughout our region’s economy. I represent the cities of Detroit and Hamtramck in the United States House of Representatives, both of which are ground zero for the latest rounds of GM layoffs – and I also have GM headquarters within my district. While there is much that needs to be addressed, I have a message for GM executives: Do right by Michigan and our American workforce.

A sign is seen at General Motors as they announced the closing of multiple facilities including the Warren Transmission Operations on November 26, 2018 in Warren, Michigan. - In a massive restructuring, US auto giant General Motors announced Monday it would cut 15 percent of its workforce to save $6 billion and adapt to "changing market conditions."
The moves include shuttering seven plants worldwide as the company responds to changing customer preferences and focuses on popular trucks and SUVs and increasingly on electric models.GM will shutter three North American auto assembly plants next year: the Oshawa plan in Ontario, Canada; Hamtramck in Detroit, Michigan and Lordstown in Warren, Ohio.In addition, it will close propulsion plants -- which produce batteries and transmissions -- in Baltimore, Maryland and Warren, Michigan, as well two more unidentified plants outside of North America. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

General Motors closing plants and cutting jobs in some of our most vulnerable American cities, including constituents I represent, has the potential to cause irreversible damage to the Detroit and Hamtramck communities.

A diverse city with a strong history intertwined with our region’s automotive heritage, Hamtramck bore witness to highs and lows of the auto boom and bust cycles. Over the years, Hamtramck has suffered from two state-declared financial emergencies; the announced closure of the plant that covers hundreds of acres and extends across city lines both there and in Detroit could send Hamtramck back into financial hardship.

It is vital that GM keep their Michigan workers employed, uphold their revenue commitment to Hamtramck and Detroit, acknowledge the sacrifices American taxpayers made to ensure their survival during the recent recession, and prevent rubbing salt in the wound of the Poletown neighborhood’s past demise. I had a direct conversation with the CEO of General Motors about these concerns, and she is well aware that our office will be in regular contact and will continue to be on the frontline fighting for our American workforce.

There is still much work that needs to be tackled to stop the continuing erosion of our nation’s manufacturing base.

The Hamtramck and Detroit communities are counting on us to get it right. Michigan workers are counting on us to get it right. It is time for this country to stand up and support the American workforce, which is under siege. Let us rebuild and restore our nation’s manufacturing base.

U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, represents Michigan’s 14th District.