Urges immediate action to release funds for auto companies
ENEWSPF– UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said today that UAW members and workers throughout the auto industry "appreciate the positive statement released by the White House this morning that they are considering all options, including use of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, to assist the auto industry."
The union urged immediate action by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson or the Federal Reserve Bank "to use their authority to prevent the imminent collapse of the automakers, and the devastating consequences that would follow for millions of workers and retirees across our nation, and for our economy as a whole."
Action by the executive branch, Gettelfinger said, is "the only remaining option" after a minority of Republican senators blocked a bipartisan agreement in Congress to provide emergency bridge loans and begin a long-term restructuring process for the auto industry.
"Our union has recognized that the industry is in a restructuring mode, and we have done a lot of hard work to assist these companies," said Gettelfinger. UAW members accepted negotiated concessions in 2005 and in 2007, and last week, UAW delegates from Chrysler, Ford and General Motors local unions voted to suspend the jobs bank and make additional sacrifices in response to the current emergency.
In addition to these steps the union has already taken, Gettelfinger said, the union "went the extra mile" Thursday after receiving a call from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn. The union agreed to negotiate with Corker with the aim of reaching a bipartisan compromise that could win approval in the Senate.
"We reached a tentative agreement with Sen. Corker," Gettelfinger said, "with the understanding he could win approval from the Republican caucus in the Senate. Unfortunately, he was unable to do so."
The tentative agreement reached with Corker, Gettelfinger said, would have required bondholders, as well as the independent trust established to provide health care for UAW retirees — the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) — to exchange a large portion of their claims for stock in the companies.
"These agreed-to changes," Gettelfinger said, "would have made an enormous difference and a major contribution toward resolving the companies’ financial problems."
The tentative agreement reached with Corker also called for the proposed auto czar to ensure that wages and benefits paid to active UAW employees at domestic automakers would be competitive with compensation paid to workers at foreign-owned transplant factories.
"It’s unfortunate that Sen. Corker was unable to persuade his colleagues to accept the agreement we negotiated, which included substantial additional sacrifices by our members," said Gettelfinger.
The stumbling block was a demand by the GOP caucus that UAW workers and retirees had to be treated differently from all other stakeholders, instead of requiring all parties to come to the table.
"This demand is not only unfair, it is unworkable," said Gettelfinger. "Modifying wages and benefits alone cannot solve the structural and financial problems faced by the domestic auto industry."
Since a minority of senators have blocked action on the bipartisan plan passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and agreed to by the White House, and also on the agreement the UAW reached with Corker, Gettelfinger said, "the only alternative now is for the Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve to release funds as quickly as possible for these companies."
"We need immediate temporary assistance now, and looking down the road we need a long-term restructuring plan that involves all stakeholders. We’re going to work tirelessly to make sure that happens — to save American jobs, to save American companies and to rebuild a great industry."
Video of today’s UAW news conference.