In an effort to win over auto workers in Ohio and across the Midwest, Team Romney this week unveiled a jaw-droppingly fraudulent ad rewriting Mitt's opposition to the federal bailout that saved the entire industry. But largely overlooked in the shocked response to his bogus claims about Jeep shipping U.S. jobs to China has been the union-bashing that was at the center of Romney's primary campaign to win the Republican nomination for president. As a quick glance reveals, Mitt Romney may profess "I love American cars," but not the Americans who make them.
During the GOP primaries, Governor Romney didn't merely back a national "right to work" law, support Ohio Governor John Kasich's now-overridden SB5 law banning collective bargaining rights for all public employees and denounce President Obama's appointees to the National Labor Relations Board as "union stooges." (That last charge was particularly ironic, given the later resignation of a Republican NLRB member for leaking confidential information to the Romney campaign.) Using vitriolic language his campaign would prefer Ohioans forget, Mitt Romney blasted the United Auto Workers despite the sacrifices its members made to save Detroit. As he boasted in Grand Rapids, Michigan back in February:
"I call it crony capitalism and that's the path that [Barack Obama] is taking. He got hundreds of millions of dollars from labor bosses for his campaign. And so, he's paying them back in every way he knows how. One way, of course, was giving General Motors and Chrysler to the UAW. I saw that Bob King said that I don't care about the auto industry. I'm sorry, Mr. King. I care very deeply about the auto industry. I want to make sure we have good jobs, not just for a few weeks but for many, many years. I want the auto industry to come back in a big way and I've taken on union bosses before, I'm happy to take them on again because I happen to believe that you can protect the interests of the American taxpayers and you can protect a great industry like automobiles without having to give in to the UAW and I sure won't."
Not to content to stop there, Romney in a Valentine's Day op-ed called President Obama's successful rescue of the auto industry a "sweetheart deal" and "crony capitalism on a grand scale."
Instead of doing the right thing and standing up to union bosses, Obama rewarded them...This was crony capitalism on a grand scale. The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.
In reality, there was no truth to Romney's charge that "The president gave the (auto) companies to the UAW." As Politifact explained:
The reality is Obama was in charge of a bailout deal that resulted in the union's health care trust owning stock in Chrysler and GM. But the trust was owed money to pay for health care under the terms of labor contracts the car companies signed. And the union "gave" plenty too -- in the form of wages, vacation and job security. In that light, the arrangement was a tradeoff, not a giveaway.
What tips Romney's claim even further from reality is the fact that the union itself does not own any GM or Chrysler stock. The trust that manages health benefits for retirees is the stockholder, and it is independent from the UAW. It is not a majority shareholder in either company, nor does it have a vote on the board.
While Romney's union-bashing might play well with conservative Republican primary voters, the general election is another matter altogether.