Category Archives: auto bailout

Tennessee Republicrites Visit Spring Hill

File this one under “taking credit where it’s not due”: Senators Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander and Congressman Marsha Blackburn all went to Spring Hill today Friday to take credit for what the Democrats did:

The irony of the Republican lawmakers’ presence wasn’t lost on the workers who attended the ceremony; they booed Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, and one UAW official made clear from the stage that the union still remembered which politicians had voted to rescue Wall Street but opposed an auto industry bailout.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker
Then: “This administration has decided they know better than our courts and our free market process how to deal with these companies….This is a major power grab.” – March 30, 2009.

Now: “At the end of the day we all have to feel good about what we did,” said Corker, who did attempt to negotiate the failed 2008 aid package. “I contributed to strengthening the auto industry in this country.”

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
Then: “This is not the right direction: taxpayer money down the drain, and Washington politicians trying to run auto companies. The sooner the politicians get out of the way, the sooner auto jobs and taxpayer dollars will be secure.” – March 30, 2009.

Now: “The center of the auto industry is still moving to Tennessee and the mid-South,” Alexander told WSMV-TV.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Then: “I certainly can’t think of the last time the federal government stepping into an industry caused that industry to be more successful, or more efficient. ” – December 2008.

Now: Blackburn attended, but no quotes from her have been reported. She has been busy with other issues, including a bill to overturn the upcoming ban on incandescent light bulbs.

Bob Corker, of course, voted yes on the bank bailout, no on the auto bailout. Lamar Alexander voted yes on the bank bailout, and missed the auto bailout vote because of surgery, but said he would have voted no. Corker tried to negotiate an alternate auto deal because, as he said at the time, the Big Three Bailout wouldn’t help the industry one bit:

“I mean you couldn’t make it almost more ineffective and more complicated,” said Corker about the White House plan.

Oops. Looks like you were way wrong on that one, buckaroo! And look who shows up expecting chocolates and roses when GM is back in the black and rehiring laid-off workers one year later?

File this one under assholes.

(h/t, ThinkProgress.)

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Filed under auto bailout, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

>Time For A Living Wage

>Via Oxdown at Firedoglake, an explanation of today’s middle finger to American workers that was the loan “auto bailout” measure:

The foreign nonunion auto companies located in the South have a plan to reduce wages and benefits at their factories in the United States. And to do it, they need to destroy the United Auto Workers.

Last week, Senate Republicans from some Southern states went to work trying to do just that, on the foreign car companies’ behalf.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) — representatives from states that subsidize companies such as Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan — first tried to force the UAW to take reductions in wages and benefits as a condition for supporting the auto industry bailout bill. When the UAW refused, those senators torpedoed the bill.

[…]

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger realized that the existence of the union was under attack, which is why he refused to give in to the Senate Republicans’ demands that the UAW make further concessions. I say “further” because the union has already conceded a lot. Its 2007 contract introduced a two-tier contract to pay new hires $15 an hour (instead of $28) with no defined pension plan and dramatic cuts to their health insurance. In addition, the UAW agreed that healthcare benefits for existing retirees would be transferred from the auto companies to an independent trust. With the transferring of the healthcare costs, the labor cost gap between the Big Three and the foreign transplants will be almost eliminated by the end of the current contracts.

One reason there is the perception that UAW wages are so overinflated is that the “average” figures our media cited included retiree pensions. American auto manufacturers carry huge legacy costs, since, you know, Ford has been making cars in America a few generations longer than have Toyota and Nissan.

One would expect that foreign manufacturers would eventually carry some high pension costs, someday perhaps, unless they take some kind of proactive action. And lo and behold:

However, an internal Toyota report, leaked to the Detroit Free Press last year, reveals that the company wants to slash $300 million out of its rising labor costs by 2011. The report indicated that Toyota no longer wants to “tie [itself] so closely to the U.S. auto industry.” Instead, the company intends to benchmark the prevailing manufacturing wage in the state in which a plant is located. The Free Press reported that in Kentucky, where the company is headquartered, this wage is $12.64 an hour, according to federal labor statistics, less than half Toyota’s $30-an-hour wage.

If the companies, with the support of their senators, can wipe out or greatly weaken the UAW, they will be free to implement their plan.

This sounds about right.

Let’s just say the Nissan plant in Smyrna, TN., paid its workers $12.64/hour right now. That’s a good bit more than the current minimum wage–$7.25 (and you have the Democratic majority in Congress to thank for even that), and a healthy bit above the $8.87 that is a living wage for single adults in Rutherford County. But if you’re a single mom, or the sole provider in your family, it’s not enough to make ends meet.

Scott County, KY, where Toyota’s Georgetown plant is located, and where that hourly wage is said to be a probable reality, doesn’t fare much better.

So, if this does in fact happen three years from now—file this one away for the memory hole, peeps!—you have folks like Bob Corker and Mitch McConnell to thank.

I know this may come as a shock to the wingnut coalition that visits my blog, but I’m not by default an automatic union supporter. I’m not attached to the “existence of the union” if the benefits of union membership can be achieved some other way. But I am a big supporter of the working man and woman, and if that means forming unions so workers can have a collective voice at the negotiating table, that’s fine with me.

But if the ultimate legacy of the Bush Years is the destruction of the American worker’s union, so be it. All is not lost, my friends.

What we need in this country is a national Living Wage law. If workers in this country were paid a decent wage, a wage they could live on, a living wage, and that wage were the law of the land, maybe we wouldn’t need unions anymore.

Just a thought.

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Filed under auto bailout, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Mitch McConnell, unions

>Dubious Distinction

>[UPDATE]:

Thank you, Bob Corker!

GM to temporarily close 20 plants to slash output

General Motors Corp. said Friday it will temporarily close 20 factories across North America and make sweeping cuts to its vehicle production as it tries to adjust to dramatically weaker automobile demand.

[…]

The move affects most of GM’s plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. During the shutdowns, employees will be temporarily laid off and can apply to receive a portion of their normal pay from the company. They can also apply for state unemployment benefits, Lee said.
———————————————–

ThinkProgress brings us the list du jour: “20 senators who bailed out Wall Street but refused to rescue auto workers.”

Without further ado:

Yes to TARP, No to auto

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Sen. Kay Hutchison (R-TX)
Sen. John Isakson (R-GA)
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Yes to TARP, Absent for auto

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Sen.Ted Stevens (R-AK)
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)

Look at all the “R”s. Good to remember when the economy collapses further into the abyss.

And lookie here: is that both of Tennessee’s Senators voting no or else absent on the auto vote? Why, yes it is!

Sen. Corker, of course, has led the charge against the auto bailout. Sen. Alexander was recovering after surgery, but is on record for saying he’d have voted no. (For those who are interested, John Kerry was in Poland attending the climate change talks. I don’t know about Biden.)

Maybe someone should tell Tennessee’s Senators that General Motors is the largest employer in Spring Hill, TN. Hmm?

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Filed under auto bailout, GM, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee politics