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.
After all, in 2008 union households represented 30 percent of the vote in the Buckeye State and were a key reason the Romney-backed SB5 was rejected by nearly a 2 to 1 margin. It's no wonder Republican pollster Whit Ayres fretted earlier this year about Romney's slanders of the UAW:
"Among Republicans, it plays fine. Down the road, there may be some issues."
Issues, indeed. That's why the Romney campaign is making demonstrably false claims about Jeep sending U.S. jobs to China and dispatching Paul Ryan to charge that the bankruptcy of parts maker Delphi left salaried workers without the pension guarantees union members received. (That bogus charge is doubly ironic, given those pension protections were part of the union's pre-2008 contract and that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan sugar daddy Paul Singer made millions on the Delphi layoffs Singer's hedge fund engineered.)
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is doing everything he can to sweep his antipathy for the auto workers under the rug. As he explained in an August interview with BusinessWeek, everything Mitt Romney knows about leadership he learned from his father, George. That includes the late AMC CEO's relationship with the UAW:
"I watched him at American Motors as he interacted with not only executives, but workers there. I remember going to Milwaukee as he addressed UAW employees at the Milwaukee stadium and described to them the new profit-sharing program that he and the head of the UAW had put in place."
That is a sick joke coming from the son who routinely denounces "labor stooges." Even Romney's love for American cars seems suspect. As he mockingly described GM's innovative if troubled electric Chevy Volt last December:
"The Chevrolet Volt? Let's see. An idea whose time has not come," Romney said, chuckling.
Of course, that Mitt Romney would now ask for votes of the hundreds of thousands of American workers in Ohio and across the nation is the biggest joke of all.