The White House is seeking to end the United Auto Workers strike against General Motors with an agreement that would reopen an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio that GM shut down in March.
The effort, described to POLITICO by two people close to the matter, would effectively put the White House on the side of the UAW. Some 48,000 GM workers went out on strike Monday demanding higher wages, more generous health care benefits and more job security than management has been willing to offer in a new contract.
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If the effort is successful, it could boost the president’s reelection chances next year in Michigan and Ohio, where his approval rating has been slipping since the two states helped him to victory in 2016. President Donald Trump has tried to woo blue-collar workers by promising a manufacturing revival, but he’s criticized union leaders and has a fraught relationship with the automakers. His Justice Department recently opened an antitrust probe into four automakers, not including GM, that are cooperating with California as it tries to bolster clear air rules.
One person close to the matter said National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and White House trade and manufacturing adviser Peter Navarro are both involved in the talks. This individual, who was not authorized to speak publicly, cautioned that discussions are still in early stages and that the White House may not be able to broker a deal.
In remarks to reporters Monday at the White House, President Donald Trump said, “Federal mediation is always possible, if that’s what they want. Hopefully, they’ll be able to work out the GM strike quickly. We don’t want General Motors building plants outside of this country.”
The White House did not initially comment on the status of the negotiations, but after POLITICO published this article, it issued a denial.
“This story is false,” deputy press secretary Judd Deere wrote in an email. “The Trump Administration, including Larry Kudlow and Peter Navarro, are not involved in the negotiations between the UAW and GM. As President Trump has said, we would like to see a fair and speedy conclusion to these talks.“
GM also declined to comment initially, then said in a written statement after POLITICO’s story was published that the White House “has no involvement in the negotiations.“
Trump himself has indicated he was sympathetic to the workers’ cause.
“My relationship has been very powerful with the [UAW] — not necessarily the top person or two, but the people that work doing automobiles,” Trump said Monday. “Nobody has ever brought more companies into the United States.“
“And big things are happening in Ohio, including with Lordstown,” he said. “Very positive things are happening.“
A UAW spokesperson declined to comment on any overtures by the White House, saying it is focused on negotiations at the bargaining table. GM initially declined to comment, but said later in a statement that the White House “has no involvement in the negotiations.“
The president bludgeoned General Motors last year for announcing plans last year to cut nearly 14,000 jobs in North America, including plant closures in Michigan, Ohio and Maryland. The Lordstown plant raised particular ire from Trump, and has been used by critics to argue that his promise to revive U.S. manufacturing was an empty one.
Trump has been following negotiations between GM and the UAW for some time. In March, he admonished GM and the UAW for dragging their heels in renegotiating a contract.
“Why wait, start them now!“ Trump tweeted at the time. “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! Car companies are all coming back to the U.S. So is everyone else.”