United Auto Workers on strike

United Auto Workers union members protest outside the General Motors Arlington Assembly Plant on Tuesday in Texas. | Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

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 and could boost the president’s reelection chances next year in Michigan and Ohio. 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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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 respond to requests for comment on the status of the negotiations, though Trump himself 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 also declined to comment.

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.”

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