KANSAS CITY — It's been a pet peeve of American unions: U.S. corporations closing plants in their own backyard while exporting the jobs to low-wage countries.
Now it's General Motors -- bankrolled by the American taxpayer and scrambling for a survival plan acceptable in Washington -- that will stamp the "Made in China" label on some cars to be sold in this country next year.
A GM document circulating in Washington calls for nearly doubling the vehicles it imports into the United States to 736,547 from 371,547 over the next five years.
Besides China, car imports will be boosted from Mexico, South Korea and Japan, said union officials.
By 2014, GM would be bringing in 51,500 vehicles from China. Although it's a relatively tiny number, the fact that it's China strikes a nerve.
As Ohio Sen. Brown put it in a press release Tuesday: "What's good for GM is no longer good for America."
"This would be like another bad trade agreement," agreed Jeff Manning, president of United Auto Workers Local 31 at GM's Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan., where about 2,500 work.
Manning hopes the import issue stays on the negotiating table for GM, the union and the Obama auto task force as the June 1 deadline nears for a massive restructuring plan or bankruptcy court or both.
No surprise, the importing provision does not sit well with the union, which has shrunk by thousands of members in the past several years as GM has closed more than two dozen plants. The auto giant plans to shut 16 more of its 47 remaining plants in restructuring and eliminate 21,000 more U.S. jobs.
"I just find it hard to believe that this would be allowed to happen. Those 21,000 good-paying jobs are 21,000 people who pay state and federal taxes and who spend money in their community," said Manning.
GM has more than 20,000 employees in China, where it operates seven joint ventures and two wholly owned enterprises.
The automaker said recently it expects sales to increase 5 percent to 10 percent this year in China, where it offers a full line of vehicles familiar to Americans and several that are not.