Thursday, December 20th, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, gave his first public response to Governor John Kasich’s multiple attempts to reach him in the hope of saving the Lordstown Assembly complex in Warren, Ohio. On November 26th, General Motors announced that the 6.2 million square foot auto manufacturing facility, along with four additional plants nationwide, will be closing in 2019.
The plant currently employs over 1,500 Ohioans who would all be laid off, should the factory cease operations. Following the decision, a coalition of union leaders, factory workers, and community members, known as Drive it Home, formed almost immediately to challenge the move. In 1998, when GM announced plans the close the plant, a similar coalition called Bring it Home successfully arranged for GM to keep the plant open, albeit at a more modest production level.
While many are hopeful that GM can be convinced once again, in a November 29th statement (copied below) Governor Kasich announced that he, the GM Team, and JobsOhio would “explore alternatives” for the plant’s future, implying that GM was not likely to reopen the plant and if the plant had a future, it would be with another company.
In a December 7th teaser for a full segment on 60 Minutes, Musk revealed that he would be open to acquiring some, if not all, of the plants GM was intending to close. a week later, in an interview with Bloomberg, Kasich relayed that he was personally trying to reach Musk to little success;
If Elon Musk wanted that plant that’d be terrific…I’ve been trying to get a call to him…I’m trying to call him myself.
Finally, on December 18th, Kasich tweeted directly to the controversial CEO, noting;
There are no better workers than Ohio workers. And Lordstown is ready for you. pic.twitter.com/MG5A2Vqa2a
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) December 18, 2018
Two days later, Musk publicly responded to Gov. Kasich’s requests by saying: “Thanks, will consider next year” While Musk acquiring the plant would appear to be a tremendous win for Ohio, there are many barriers that would challenge a potential acquisition.
Thanks, will consider next year
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2018
Tesla Motors considers their production process entirely unique to other motor companies. It’s unknown whether or not this model would be compatible with an existing plant. Second, Musk has a history of aggressively pursuing automation whenever possible. Should he acquire the factory, many of the workers could still be laid off and replaced in the coming years.
Lastly and most complicating, Musk has an unfavorable history with unions. As recently as September, Tesla employees were accusing Musk of terminating their employment over talks of forming a union. Publicly, Musk has maintained that he is “neutral” to unions, however, none currently exist at any of his factories.
Negotiations between GM and Union leaders will continue through summer, 2019, and workers remain hopeful that a compromise can be reached.
According to one GM spokesperson: “The future of the (Lordstown plant and others) is a matter of negotiations.”
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