Last week I wondered aloud about where the UAW stands on fuel economy, inspired by the union’s apparent flip-flopping between supporting the companies that employ its workers and backing its environmental allies on the left with talk of its commitment to green jobs. And after expressing concern about proposed CAFE increases, it seems the UAW is flopping back towards the environmentalist side of the equation, joining the so-called “Blue-Green Coalition” of labor leaders and environmental groups in expressing its vague support for “strong” emissions standards in a letter to President Obama [PDF]. But with CAFE negotiations coming down to within 5 MPG or so of a final “number” for the 2052 standard, the letter’s lack of commitment means it’s still not clear where the UAW comes down in the policy debate. So instead of highlighting the union’s commitment to the environment, the letter ends up serving as a window into the UAW’s cynical, yet self-deluding side.
The letter argues:
If there’s a significant sentence anywhere in the entire letter, it’s “we request your continuing support for federal efforts to assist the auto industry retool to meet demand for cleaner, more efficient cars.” Having pointed to the ATVM Loan program, which sent out some $25b in loans in a manner that inspired charges of lax oversight and political patronage, the BlueGreen Alliance makes it clear that it’s not lobbying for any specific CAFE standard, but rather a handout whatever the standard eventually becomes. And here’s where the argument falls apart: not only did ATVM become a black eye for the government, but the “evidence” that the UAW cites for a connection between green technology and union jobs is falling apart. After all, GM assembles the battery for its green-car-icon Chevy Volt out of Korean-made battery cells, using non-union labor. The EV sector is dependent on suppliers in Japan and Korea for both batteries and components like the Chevy Volt’s transmission, while Ford’s forthcoming Focus EV was developed almost entirely by the Austrian-Canadian supplier Magna International. Arguing that more public money will translate into UAW-represented “green jobs” is a mirage, and environmental firms should be ashamed to be lending their moral authority (with those who buy into it) to what amounts to a campaign for union handouts.