MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Ohio’s senators met with Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors Wednesday afternoon, more than a week after the company announced five plants would be closing.
Four of those plants would be in the United States and one in Canada, and would result in nearly 15,000 jobs being lost, which Senators Brown and Portman are looking to stop, at least in their home state of Ohio.
One of the plants marked for closure is in Lordstown, just outside of Youngstown.
Wednesday was the first time GM’s CEO had spoken publicly since those closures were announced last week, nearly 10 years since the last truck rolled out of the old GM plant in Moraine
"We're not asking for charity," Senator Rob Portman (R - OH) said. "What we're asking for is to give the community and the workforce the opportunity to once again show what they can do."
"Senator Portman and I will continue to fight to get a decision quicker rather than later on putting, whether it's electric vehicles or some Chevy Blazer or something else in this plant,” Senator Sherrod Brown (D - OH) added.
GM has said the closures are due to changing consumer tastes and decreased demand for the Chevy Cruze, which is produced in Lordstown.
"We are in an industry that is transforming faster than I've ever seen in my 38 year career," Barra said, "and we're trying to make sure that General Motors is strong and that we're in a leadership position."
10 Years ago, GM cited similar circumstances as the reason for closing their plant in Moraine, a decision which is still felt by local business owners.
"You still got kids, you still got food, rent, car payments," Bruce Miller, owner of The Upper Deck Tavern, said. "No extra money. When they took away all the people that made serious money that had been there forever, that really hurt the area."
Also just like ten years ago, GM’s CEO said they could relocate some employees to other locations in other states, which led to an outburst at her post-meeting press conference.
“We’re working to have a plan for every person, looking at opportunities that we have across the country for them to be able to transfer or to consider," Barra said, before an unidentified man began shouting.
The man yelled, “What if they want to stay in the places they are right now? In Youngstown, in the Mahoning Valley? What about my friends and family? My 15 year old..." before being cut off by an NBC News reporter.
Barra did not acknowledge or answer the shouting man’s questions
According to Senator Portman, Barra told them she was keeping an open mind about the future of the Lordstown plant, but did not want to raise any expectations. If nothing changes, those plants are expected to close in March.
Barra said despite political pressure coming from even President Donald Trump, her focus was on the workers.
"It's incredibly difficult to make these types of decisions," Barra said, "so our focus is on the GM team members that are impacted, making sure they understand all of their opportunities, and then also looking at what other retraining opportunities as well. That is our focus right now."