I am stymied. Why?
Here’s the backstory: we all know that the big 3 US automakers–Chrysler, Ford, and GM–have been begging Congress for a $15 billion bailout package for some time now. It went to a vote in the House of Representatives a couple of days ago, where it passed. Senate Republicans, however, threatened to filibuster and late last night the crap sandwich was defeated. Republicans refused to support it (along with several Democrats, because this thing was horrifically unpopular with the majority of Americans) in its original form, and when given a few conditions, the United Auto Workers union refused to accept, forcing the bill to fail.
Today, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger decried the move, saying, “This was just simply subterfuge on the part of the minority in the Republican Party who wanted to tear down any agreement that we came up with…the auto industry around the world is in peril.” His issue is with the concessions the Republicans wanted: chief among them were wage cuts (either in the form of paid wages or the expensive health benefits UAW members get) and a date by which the automakers could healthily compete with foreign automakers that have plants here in the US. That’s not too much to ask, considering the fact that UAW members make, between wages and benefits, around $64 an hour, as compared to foreign automakers who pay around $48 an hour.
Gettelfinger also had this to say: “Quite frankly, we wondered if we were just being set up. And I say that because there’s no question the UAW has demonstrated leadership throughout this process, and there were some in the Senate who we felt resented that. ”
Only a union head could call this loss a SETUP.
First of all, let’s think of how these giants got here in the first place. For a long time, the three biggest automakers in the US focused entirely on building gas-guzzling SUV’s despite a growing interest in vehicles that were either hybrids or simply more fuel-efficient…vehicles already being sold by Honda and Toyota like they were going out of style. Americans in upper-middle-class neighborhoods became enthralled with gi-normous trucks that they didn’t need because they had become a status symbol, and instead of planning for the future the big 3 tried to cash in on the present. As a result, when the inevitable crisis hit and more and more people needed to get rid of the status symbols they could no longer afford, stock in these companies began to tank. At one point, Ford had announced that it was discontinuing the Taurus, which was their most popular vehicle overall, because they were trying to throw everything they had at turning out more trucks.
But when it became painfully apparent that they were going to need more fuel-efficient vehicles, Ford opted to not only keep the Taurus, but improve it and roll out a second crossover version. Now they’re all playing catch-up; they’ve been caught with their pants down and they’re being thrashed in sales by automakers that worked to keep up before problems started. Instead of working to do what they need to do to avoid going bust they’re expecting the government’s mother-of-all-bailouts to give them a little somethin’ so they can stay comfy. Instead of sucking it up and staying the course, the unions are demanding things that they should be willing to give up for a short time so they can have their jobs five years down the road from now. This is why I don’t like unions (among other reasons).
And instead of calling it for what it is and telling the CEO’s that have led these companies straight to hell in a handbasket, the unions are castigating Senate Republicans. Of course we can’t trace the problem back to where it started. It’s easier to blame someone in the here and now for making it more difficult than we’re willing to accept. Hey, it’s worked for the past eight years, let’s blame the Republicans!
For every finger you point, there’s three pointing back at ya, bucko.