Late Edition: UAW President Gettlefinger Pushes Back Against Romney's Anti Union Screed

(h/t Heather)

On Late Edition, host Wolf Blitzer asks UAW President Ron Gettlefinger for his take on Mitt Romney's heartless and callously Republican "solution" to the auto industry crisis: take away health benefits and pensions for the laborers, otherwise known as "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

It's curious to me that CNN, the NY Times or basically, anyone cares what Romney thinks on the Detroit bailout. His apparent bona fides being that he was the son of George Romney, while completely ignoring George's legacy at AMC, which was to successfully compete against the Big 3 by making more economic and efficient cars to their larger gas guzzlers. Does Romney urge the Big 3 to innovate and stop making cars Americans don't want to buy? Of course not. Does he urge them to make sensible changes to their lending arms? Uh uh. No, this is all the fault of those pesky blue collar employees who have the nerve to expect the auto industry to uphold their pension and healthcare commitments. The nerve!

Gettlefinger deftly charges that it's not surprising that the Republican would point the finger at workers, and it, like most Republican tenets, is not based in reality. But when he tries to bring up that this is a worldwide economic issue (because the lending arms of these automakers do have tentacles all over the globe), and it bears little difference from the financial bailout for which the Republicans were only too happy to pony up funds, Blitzer interrupts him to bring up yet another inane and irrelevant talking point: whether the CEOs will arrive in Washington DC via personal jet again.

I forget, was this an issue for BearStearns and AIG when they put their hand out? Way to get to the heart of such a critical issue for so many Americans, Wolfie.

Full transcripts below the fold

BLITZER: You heard Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate, the son himself of theauto industry, is father George Romney, the Governor of Michigan, was a leader in the US auto industry in his day. This is what Mitt Romney said on this program exactly one week ago.

VIDEO (ROMNEY) And, of course, the labor element is a big part of the burden that this industry faces. The U.S. automobile companies are subject to about a $2,000 per cost disadvantage relative to foreign companies that come here and build cars. You can't compete if the cars you make have $2,000 less value in them at the same price point. That is going to have to change. That's pension benefits. It's health care costs for pensioners and current employees.

BLITZER: You want to respond to Gov. Romney?

GETTLEFINGER: Well, first of all, Gov. Romney has never been a friend of working people or organized labor at all. Secondly, based on the changes that we made in our contracts, we are competitive. And I would challenge Mitt Romney on that. If we want to throw our retirees our on the street, if that’s what Mitt Romney wants to do, let him do it. We’re not prepared to do that. And it’s hard for us to compete when we subsidize state by state the foreign brands to come in here. But Wolf, I’m telling you, that based on the changes we made in our contract the hard sacrifices that were made by the men and women of the UAW, we have put these companies in a competitive position. And I didn’t hear him talking about the safety records that we have, I didn’t hear him talking about the quality, where we set the benchmark in many areas or the productivity. And it’s wrong for people like that, who really has no experience in the industry, to come out here and to point the blame at organized labor. In this case, to point the blame at management. This is a downturn being felt around the world and 4% of our Gross Domestic Product goes right to the automobile industry. We cannot afford to let these companies fail. And it’s just incumbent on this Congress, when they come back together, the week of December the 8th to vote in favor of this low interest bridge loan. And that’s what it is. It’s a bridge loan that’s going to be paid back by these companies. And you know, Wolf, we’re…

BLITZER: We’re out of time, Mr. Gettlefinger, because we’re limited. One quick final question…it’s a sensitive issue, probably in the scheme of things--financially, not that significant--but in terms of public relations, very important. The CEOs of the big three auto companies, when they come to Washington in the coming days, you want them to fly commercial or you want them to fly on their private jets?

GETTLEFINGER: Well, there’s no question they’re going to come in different ways. But the sad thing about that is, it became a distraction. It became a soundbyte, and look, I’m one to be critical of management, I’ll do that privately. But I would say this, let’s get focused back on the issue. And that’s our economy. This economic downturn that we’re in , that was not created by the industry and again, it’s being felt around the world. Other countries, other governments are given consideration to helping the auto industry; our government should be no different. By the way, you know, we’re no different that Citigroup, AIG, BearStearns. We will bring a plan, they didn’t have to. But we’re prepared to bring a plan to get this loan.

BLITZER: Well, good luck, Mr. Gettlefinger, good luck to the auto industry.

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