In a sprawling Detroit speech Wednesday, President Trump doubled down on his pledge to bring back American jobs, telling the audience his efforts in the Oval Office are already paying off. He cited as an example General Motors, which just unveiled plans to rehire about 700 laid-off workers in Michigan and create another 200 local positions.
“We’re going to stop the jobs from leaving our country,” Trump told the crowd in Ypsilanti Township, Mich. “It’s not going to happen anymore, folks. Already, we’re seeing jobs coming back. Since my election … just today, breaking news, General Motors announced that they’re adding or keeping 900 jobs right here in Michigan.”
Trump also signaled his intention to roll back fuel efficiency standards put in place under former president Barack Obama, environmental rules he has described as a threat to auto jobs.
Over the last three months, Trump has taken credit for persuading Ford and Chrysler Fiat to keep jobs on American soil — claims both companies have disputed. GM’s hiring decision, too, has more to do with the company’s long-term strategy than any presidential pressure or imminent policy changes.
When asked if the administration influenced the automaker’s move, GM spokesman Pat Morrissey did not give Trump credit. “We haven’t fundamentally changed any of our plans," he said Wednesday in a statement. "But we continue to look for ways to improve our operations and find ways to help the country, grow jobs and support economic growth."
Earlier this year, GM rejiggered its production strategy, announcing it would pour $1 billion into United States manufacturing, an investment that would allow the company to open or retain 1,500 jobs. Separately, the company also wiped out roughly 3,300 factory jobs across the Midwest.
That's not unusual for the auto industry, where changing consumer tastes have long impacted jobs.
Demand for small cars was falling, so GM shifted focus to trucks and SUVs. The company slashed in January about 1,200 factory jobs in Lordstown, Ohio, where workers assembled Chevrolet Cruzes, and another 800 in Lansing, Mich., which produces Camaro and Cadillac models.
Two weeks ago, the company announced it would lay off 1,100 workers in May at its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant. GM had opted to shift production of an SUV to a plant in Tennessee, where 800 new jobs would open.
Bill Reed, president of UAW Local 602, which represents GM employees in Lansing, said the union worked with the automaker to find new work for the displaced workers. Though the plan was unveiled Wednesday, he said, negotiations started months ago.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with Donald Trump,” Reed said.
About 180 of the workers who will lose their jobs in May will relocate to GM's Flint Assembly Plant, where they will assemble pickup trucks. Another 500 will stay in Lansing, building SUVs. They all start work next year. Some could pick up other roles before then, Reed said. Some could collect unemployment checks.
GM also plans to create 220 new jobs at its Romulus Powertrain Plant in Romulus, Mich., where workers would put together 10-speed automatic transmissions. It’s still unclear who will fill those roles, the company said.
Since he took office, Trump has also suggested he inspired Ford’s decision to halt construction of a plant in Mexico and hire more workers on American soil.
Chief executive Mark Fields, however, said the automaker canceled the $1.6 billion factory in San Luis Potosi because of the market: “The reason that we are not building the new plant,” he said in early January, “the primary reason, is just demand has gone down for small cars.”
A week later, Trump tweeted, “It’s finally happening. Fiat Chrysler just announced plans to invest $1 BILLION in Michigan and Ohio plants, adding 2,000 jobs.”
The company clarified that its investment was a year-old business decision and that it would continue to make hundreds of thousands of cars south of the border.