Trump fires at GM again ahead of Ohio visit


New York (AFP)

General Motors' decision to shutter an Ohio auto plant was back in the spotlight on Tuesday following repeat Twitter attacks on the company from President Donald Trump.

Trump, who is scheduled to visit the politically crucial Midwestern state on Wednesday, revived his criticism of the company, saying on Twitter over the weekend that GM "let our country down" and calling on the company on Monday to reverse a decision to close the plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

The plant, which employed about 1,400 prior to ceasing production earlier this month, was one of five North American plants that GM announced in November would be closed as part of a cost-cutting reorganization.

Lordstown had been building the Chevrolet Cruze, a sedan model that has been losing favor in the US as consumers embrace larger vehicles.

Trump, who blasted GM's decision last year, again unloaded on the company, calling on GM and the United Auto Workers to begin talks immediately and defend the plant.

"General Motors and the UAW are going to start 'talks' in September/October. Why wait, start them now!" Trump tweeted Monday. "I want jobs to stay in the U.S.A. and want Lordstown (Ohio), in one of the best economies in our history, opened or sold to a company who will open it up fast!"

GM has characterized the reorganization as essential to its long-term competitiveness and emphasized its efforts to place affected workers at other US factories.

- Some workers relocated -

A GM spokesman said Tuesday the ultimate fate of Lordstown would be determined by the talks with UAW.

"We remain open to talking with all affected stakeholders, but our main focus remains on our employees and offering them jobs in our plants where we have growth opportunities," the GM spokesman said.

"We have now placed over 1,000 employees from our unallocated plants to other GM locations, and we have opportunities available for virtually all impacted employees."

The UAW vowed to continue to push for the workers.

"The UAW's focus is and has been on our members impacted and we will leave no stone unturned in keeping the GM plants opened," said UAW International spokesman Brian Rothenberg.

Trump, who also attacked the UAW, is scheduled to visit a defense plant on Wednesday and fundraise for his 2020 campaign. Trump carried Ohio in the 2016 race but The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Tuesday that the visit comes as Trump's popularity has declined in the state during his presidency.

Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown defended the UAW from Trump's attacks and blasted the US president for signing a 2017 tax cut law that he said created incentives to shut US factories.

Trump "has made lots of big promises and failed to stand up for workers at every turn," Brown said.

"Instead of fighting to save these jobs, President Trump decided to side with corporations and give companies like GM massive tax breaks to shut down American factories and ship jobs overseas."