General Motors CEO and Ivanka Trump talk jobs as 2020 election nears

Ivanka Trump and Mary Barra

General Motors CEO Mary Barra hosted Ivanka Trump, daughter, and adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, for a tour on Wednesday of the automaker’s worker training center in one of the hottest battlegrounds of the U.S. presidential race.

GM and White House officials said the meeting at the automaker’s technical center in Warren, Michigan, was scheduled much before and was not a political event.

Warren is located in Macomb County, north of Detroit, which will be critical to winning Michigan’s electoral votes in November. Preserving U.S. manufacturing jobs has always been a focus of President Trump’s administration.

Big American corporations face a challenge during a charged campaign season. Barra and GM have not endorsed a candidate in the presidential contest, and they are not going to do so in the future, company officials said. Still, the automaker has much at stake in policy decisions Trump – or his successor – will make on issues such as tailpipe emissions, autonomous automobiles safety rules, trade and taxes.

GM is one of the few corporations supporting White House programs to promote investments in worker training. Ivanka Trump is leading those efforts, including an advertising campaign named “Find Something New.”

Among the students in the GM program who met with Barra and Trump was Zephirin Hunt, who started with the automaker as a temporary worker at the automaker’s Flint truck assembly plant. Now, Hunt said, he is a skilled trades worker at an assembly plant close to Lansing, Michigan, pursuing a course of training in electronic machine and robot controls. “Every 890 hours,” of training, “we get a raise,” Hunt informed.

GM and Barra have had an up and down relationship with Trump, who criticized Barra and the automaker for a November 2018 decision to close an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. That shutdown was part of a broader retrenchment at the automaker in 2019 that resulted in the closure of a transmission plant in Warren, and thousands of layoffs at the GM technical center.

Trump has also criticized the automaker for investing in China, and criticized the company previously this year during a negotiation that led to GM building ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

GM has nonetheless sided with Trump in a legal fight with the state of California over its authority to set rigid vehicle emissions standards than those established by the U.S. government.

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