Auto Workers Union Issues Warning
United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger is concerned about a domino effect in the U.S. auto industry.
"Our fear is if one of these companies goes down it’s almost a certainty that two if not all three would go," he told reporters in a conference call today.
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler need federal aid before President-elect Obama takes office, Gettelfinger said.
“We have to move sooner, rather than later,” he said.
Yesterday, the White House proposed broadening the terms of a $25 billion loan package, intended to boost production of energy-efficient vehicles, to get money to Detroit.
Gettelfinger said he did not want to change the terms of the advanced technology loan, and stressed that any assistance would be in the form of “loan, not a bailout."
The UAW president also sought to turn around the blame game.
"We're here not because of what the auto industry has done," he said. "We're here because of what happened in economy.
Among its members, the UAW is pushing a campaign to pressure lawmakers for aid. Gettelfinger said workers made enough concessions in last year's bargaining agreement and will not make any more.
"You have probably seen or heard some commentators who are trying to blame you and your fellow UAW members for the current situation of the companies by attacking our 'overly rich' wages and benefits," said the union in a e-mail. "We need to rebut these false charges, and make it clear that active and retired UAW members have already made enormous sacrifices in the 2005 and 2007 collective bargaining agreements."
Detroit's auto companies have also been bolstering their pitches to convince the public and Congress members that federal aid is vital.
GM commissioned a poll that found that 55 percent of Americans believe the government should provide loans to domestic automakers. Peter D. Hart Research Associates surveyed 804 Americans and released the results Friday.
GM also launched a Web site called “GM Facts and Fiction” about the auto industry crisis, with links for public to mail form letters supporting federal assistance to their lawmakers.
Chrysler has created a short video to make its case, encouraging viewers to repost it to their own Web sites. Showing shots of assembly line workers and dealerships, the video proclaims 4.5 million jobs are at stake — the equivalent of putting the entire populations of South Carolina, Kentucky or Louisiana out of work.
“Chrysler is asking citizens to contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives, urging them to support federal assistance for the domestic auto industry,” says the company's blog.
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