By Silla Brush - 06/01/09 07:58 PM EDT
The restructuring of General Motors Corp. will have an immediate impact on more than a dozen lawmakers who will see plants in their districts shut down and thousands of constituents lose their jobs.
GM intends to cut roughly 20,000 union jobs in the restructuring process as the company closes or idles 14 manufacturing plants by the end of 2011.
More than 12,000 GM jobs are at stake in Democratic-held House seats, according to employment numbers for GM’s manufacturing plants, compared with roughly 3,000 jobs in Republican-held seats. Three parts distribution centers in Boston, Jacksonville, Fla., and Columbus, Ohio, are also set to close by the end of this year. Meanwhile, GM intends to slash 5,000 additional salaried employees and cut the dealership network to 3,600 nationwide.
The changes will result in GM having 33 plants by 2012, down from 47 in 2008.
The impact will extend well beyond GM and the specific congressional districts in play, threatening tens of thousands of additional jobs across the country as the economy adjusts to a dramatically smaller domestic car industry with fewer labor and supplier demands. At the end of 2007, the Big Three Detroit automakers directly employed roughly 240,000 workers in the United States, according to the Center for Automotive Research.
The bulk of the effects will occur in Michigan and the traditional Rust Belt manufacturing states, leaving congressmen and senators to scramble almost immediately to defend their records on the economy, and specifically jobs. Most of the changes will occur by December 2010, just after the midterm elections.
No House member will likely feel the effect of those changes harder than freshman Democratic Rep. Gary Peters (Mich.), who faces a tough reelection battle. His district is home to roughly 6,000 at-risk manufacturing jobs at two plants that will be idled and another that will be shut down.
Peters said the restructuring will “unfortunately cause many people” in his district to lose jobs, and he urged the Obama administration to provide “enhanced unemployment benefits” and “direct support for these laid-off workers.”
House members representing districts with GM plants are: Reps. Peters, Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), Mike Castle (R-Del.), Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and John McHugh (R-N.Y.).
Some Republicans directly attacked the administration for closing facilities in their districts. Jordan slammed the White House for trying to “micromanage” the auto industry.
“President Obama took the unprecedented step of intervening in private business by replacing the former CEO of General Motors,” Jordan said in a statement. “He can certainly take the honorable step in reversing his decision to close down our good General Motors facility.”
A few Democrats on Monday were demanding answers from the administration about how the restructuring plan developed. “Ohio auto communities deserve to know why certain plants are being closed while others will remain open,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
On a conference call with reporters on Sunday night, senior administration officials tried to deflect criticism that political or partisan motivations played any role in decisions about plant closures. The administration intends to have “no involvement in day-to-day business matters,” a senior administration official said, and the White House left it to GM to disclose on Monday which plants would be affected in the restructuring.
Still, some members on Monday were openly lobbying for plants in their districts. Davis was optimistic that the Spring Hill plant in his Tennessee district would only be idled rather than shuttered, and was hopeful that the plant would be selected as the site for a new manufacturing facility. GM intends to build a “small car” plant in the United States from one of the idled plants. The re-tooled plant, GM predicts, would produce 160,000 cars annually.
Other House members expressed relief on Monday. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) was “very encouraged” that a plant in his district “is expected to escape closure.”
Michael O’Brien, Kiera McCaffrey and David Shalleck-Klein contributed to this article.