Obama Gives UAW, Organized Labor the Shaft

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/30/2009 12:16:00 PM
Say what you will about organized labor's agenda, but it seems to me like it's being given a bum deal. Real liberals have criticized Obama for cozying too much to moneyed interests, and this story will do nothing to allay that particular concern. Democratic presidents of recent vintage have displayed a similar modus operandi: court the votes of organized labor and then largely forget about them when in power. Think of Bill Clinton signing on to NAFTA and allowing those human rights violators China to join the WTO. Why, just a few months ago, Obama was being heralded as the champion of the United Auto Worker's union as he garnered its approval:
"From the streets of Chicago to the state legislature in Springfield, Ill., to the halls of the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama has been a voice for dignity and justice for working people. He has a strong program for a safe and secure America, which will protect our citizens and help our country prosper in a new century.

"On every issue that counts, we can count on Barack Obama to stand with our members, our families and our communities. He has pledged to rebuild America's manufacturing base and to assist the auto industry as we re-tool toward a cleaner, more modern transportation system. Sen. Obama supports free choice in the workplace; he will fight to deliver quality, affordable health care to every American; and he understands the need to change our trade policies so that U.S. workers and U.S. companies can compete fairly in the global economy.

"As president Barack Obama will unite our country – and the active and retired members of the United Auto Workers will be proud to work with him to change our country for the better."
That sounded all very well and good. Now, however, the Obama administration is forcing the UAW to go on a diet as it refuses to throw billions more at those wealth-destroying enterprises par excellence GM and Chrysler. And, get this--the administration is asking investment bankers to assess how much improvement organized labor is making in reducing wages:
The Obama administration refused on Sunday night to give fresh bail-out money to General Motors and Chrysler, telling the carmakers to come up with new plans or risk insolvency. GM has received $13.4bn in government aid and had asked for an additional $16.6bn. Chrysler has received $4bn and had asked for another $5bn. But both companies failed to meet targets on cutting their debt and reducing the cost of benefits paid to workers.

The crisis talks between the companies and the administration’s auto task force cost the job of Rick Wagoner, chief executive of General Motors, who was asked to step down by the White House after 30 years with the carmaker.

Officials said on Sunday night that Chrysler would be given 30 days and GM 60 days to reach agreement with debtholders and unions, with new tougher targets for cost cutting, or they would lose their last chance for a government bailout, almost certainly sending them into bankruptcy. “That’s going to mean a set of sacrifices from all parties involved: management, labour, shareholders, creditors, suppliers, dealers,” President Barack Obama said Sunday on CBS, before the details had been laid out.

“Everybody is going to have to come to the table and say it’s important for us to take serious restructuring steps now in order to preserve a brighter future down the road... They’re not there yet,” Mr Obama said. The task force, whose members include former investment bankers Steve Rattner and Ron Bloom, decided that the companies had failed to prove their viability and would not, therefore, receive the combined $21.6bn of taxpayer money they had asked for [my emphasis].
This is quite brilliant if the objective is fomenting class warfare. To improve matters, I suggest they hire John Thain and Charles Prince to oversee this task force. If Obama is organized labor's "champion," then I'm Jimmy Hoffa.