By on November 18, 2008

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger is joining Detroit’s two-day testimonial of shame in Washington DC today, and in case there was any suspense about what he would say, he leaked his notes to the Detroit News. The shameless audacity of his position shouldn’t come as a surprise, given his (and his organization’s) track record. Still, it might just take your breath away a little. Step one on the Gettelfinger formula for success, prove that the D3 are going under. Not hard. Step two, refuse to do anything about it. “We do not believe there is any justification for conditioning assistance to the Detroit-based auto companies on further deep cuts in wages and benefits for active and retired workers. We would also note that in the cases where the Treasury Department has acted to rescue financial institutions, it has only imposed restrictions on executive compensation. It has never mandated cuts in wages or benefits for rank-and-file workers and retirees. Thus, there is no basis for singling out the auto industry for different treatment,” says Gettelfinger in his prepared remarks. Step three? Blackmail, baby.

Exact details of Gettelfinger’s threats to congress have been partially paraphrased by the DetN, but the message is clear. “The liquidation of the Detroit-based auto companies would have devastating consequences for millions of retirees, Gettelfinger’s remarks said. A failure of the pension plans of the automakers could require immediate government intervention and a shifting of those responsibilities to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, or PBGC. To ‘prevent the collapse of the PBGC, which would jeopardize the retirement security of millions of workers and retirees, the federal government would have to provide a huge bailout for the pension guarantee program. Furthermore, under existing law, the federal government would be liable for a 65 percent tax credit to cover the health care costs of pre-Medicare auto retirees costing about $3 billion per year.'” In other words, Gettelfinger seems to think he’s got congress by the short hairs, and he clearly doesn’t mind giving them a gentle shake.

Not that Gettelfinger doesn’t care about the taxpayer. “As with other rescue efforts under this program, the bridge loan to the automakers would be conditioned on stringent limits relating to executive compensation, as well as provisions granting the federal government an equity stake in the auto companies in order to protect the investment by taxpayers,” he tells congress. Besides, “We recognize that President-elect Obama campaigned on a platform that included increases in fuel economy and the production of plug-in hybrids, as well as assistance to the auto industry to ensure that the vehicles of the future are produced in this country. The UAW is looking forward to working with the Obama administration and the next Congress to help achieve these objectives.” Almost as much as Gettelfinger is looking forward to telling his membership that they don’t have to give up a red cent to have their hapless employers bailed out. Wrapped in green or red, white and blue, Gettelfinger’s venal self-interest is still just that.

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34 Comments on “Bailout Watch 218: Gettelfinger Blackmails Congress...”


  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    THIS TOOl BAG…is the reason the D3 are in the position they are.

    Why can’t the dems see that simple fact?

    No amount of a bailout will change ANYTHING until the D3 break these greedy and unreasonable contracts they have with the workers.

    God I hate this guy…

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    NY Times is liveblogging the hearings

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Looks like Ron will have to wait until Jan 20th.
    Those will be a long cold two months…..

  • avatar
    SpeedJebus

    The simple fact that nobody involved in the upper-management of today’s American Automobile Industry can accept one iota of responsibility is exactly why they are where they are.

    Disgraceful.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Well, he has a job too, protect his clients. And his clients are consistent sources of votes, money and manpower for the Party that will own the Exec and Legislative branches in two months. If he didn’t talk like that, I would question his sanity and loyalty. This talk about executive compensation has me thinking that Ricky “Aruba Baby!” Wagoner might just take this puppy into Ch11 after all. Under the CURRENT rules, his pension is guaranteed, under the new ones that Congress might impose, he, and all the other top execs lose their privileges. Take the money and run Rick! Actually, don’t let the door hit you on the ass when you leave….

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Well, the man does have a point about executive compensation, and it is true that UAW jobs are one of the last bastions of middle-class jobs that pay well, especially when the alternative is between the karoshi-generating while-collar work on one side and “McJobs” on the other…

    …but damn if he doesn’t come off just terribly anachronistic.

    What he needs to be concentrating on is the continued existence of meaningful, reasonably-compensated middle-class jobs. Lose these, and you effectively drive a crowbar into the rich/poor spread and crack it wide open. Instead, he’s exhibiting the same myopia as his opposite numbers in management: selling out future generations and sustainable growth for the benefit of existing pensioners and senior workers.

    Ron, like Rick, is stuck firmly in the past and only occasionally makes the trip to the present. The future, for him and “elder statemen” like him and Wagoner, is someone else’s problem.

  • avatar

    Goldfinger
    He’s the man, the man with the Midas touch
    A spider’s touch
    Such a cold finger
    Beckons you to enter his web of sin
    But don’t go in

    Golden words he will pour in your ear
    But his lies can’t disguise what you fear
    For a golden girl knows when he’s kissed her
    It’s the kiss of death …

    From Mister Goldfinger
    Pretty girl, beware of his heart of gold
    This heart is cold

    Golden words he will pour in your ear
    But his lies can’t disguise what you fear
    For a golden girl knows when he’s kissed her
    It’s the kiss of death …

    From Mister Goldfinger
    Pretty girl, beware of his heart of gold
    This heart is cold
    He loves only gold
    Only gold
    He loves gold
    He loves only gold
    Only gold
    He loves gold

  • avatar
    Orian

    It really does fall into the UAW AND executive management for the ship they are in.

    And the UAW should not expect the Democrats to cater to them – Obama didn’t need Michigan to win. He can tell them no, but time will tell which way that goes. And if the UAW and GM have to wait until January 20th, will they make it anyway?

  • avatar

    Or:
    1.
    Unbreakable union of freeborn republics
    Great Russia has welded forever to stand!
    Created in struggle by will of the people
    United and mighty, our Soviet land!

    CHORUS:

    Sing to the Motherland, home of the free,
    Bulwark of people, in brotherhood strong!
    Oh! Party of Lenin! The strength of the people.
    To Communism’s triumph lead us on!

    2.
    Through tempests the sunrays of freedom have cheered us
    Along the new path where great Lenin did lead!
    To a righteous cause he raised up the people
    Inspired them to labor and valorous deed!

    CHORUS

    3.
    In the victory of Communism’s deathless ideal,
    We see the future of our dear land
    And to her fluttering scarlet banner,
    selflessly true, we always shall stand!

    CHORUS

    Listen to the original in MP3

  • avatar
    br549

    Wrapped in green or red, white and blue, Gettelfinger’s venal self-interest is still just that.

    Man, I’m sure glad that Paulson and his Wall Street buddies with their $150,000 secretaries had the decency to not selfishly petition Congress to protect their “venal self-interest.” I swear, I get a little choked up at their sheer altruism. Makes me downright proud to be a ‘merican.

  • avatar
    TaurusGT500

    We do not believe there is any justification for …. further deep cuts in wages and benefits for active and retired workers

    For me this is deja vu all over again. …Grew up in a steel mill town a generation ago. It was home court for the United Steel Workers.

    The unions didn’t get it then there… and they don’t get it now here. …Because, apparently, the laws of supply and demand don’t apply to unions. … uhhh, except for the part where they do.

    And twentyfive years later those steel mill towns? They’re still decimated and devastated socio-economically.

    Gettlefinger is playing it out as expected, but it’s still dismaying to see.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Peter Worthington in today’s Toronto Sun points out labor costs, wages and benefits at Ford amounted to $70.51 an hour, or roughly $141,000 a year with overtime. GM was $73.26 per hour — $146,000 per year. Chrysler, $75.86, amounting to $151,000 annual salary per worker.

    Toyota, Honda and Nissan non-union U.S. plants paid salaries and benefits totaling $48 per hour, or $96,000 per year. Japanese companies in the U.S. showed profits compared to Big Three losses. Toyota’s 2007 pre-tax profit was more than $900 per car, while GM lost more than $700 per car.

    Notwithstanding Japanese cars are generally acknowledged as superior to their American counterparts, American auto workers get roughly 50% more pay than workers in Japan’s American-based car industry. Clearly, for the industry to survive, much less thrive, autoworkers must lower their wage rate as well as executives foregoing obscene bonuses that accompany their large salaries.

    In no other industry do high school graduates earn an average of $100,000-plus a year, as do workers in the auto industry. Without revamping the excesses, a series of $25-billion bailouts will solve nothing.

  • avatar
    NickR

    His notes, and the missives from GM et al, are proof that they need to file Ch 11, do a massive housecleaning, and start over.

  • avatar
    br549

    In no other industry do high school graduates earn an average of $100,000-plus a year, as do workers in the auto industry. Without revamping the excesses, a series of $25-billion bailouts will solve nothing.

    You’re about a year behind. Incoming Detroit 3 workers will earn roughly half the wages of current employees, and the negotiated VEBA was set in place to deal with burdensome legacy costs. New UAW-sanctioned work rules have led to some Chrysler plants earning higher Harbour efficiency ratings than Toyota.

    Read up on Chrysler’s World Engine plant in Dundee Mich. sometime. Its example, along with the aforementioned factoids, may alleviate some of the preconceived notions about the modern UAW espoused here.

  • avatar

    UAW’s Gettelfinger: Auto Industry Needs Aid from NPR Radio, Nov. 17th.

    Very politician-speak, meaning he answers generically and says nothing that isn’t already obvious. Annoying to listen to, TBH.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Yeah I mean the unions have made some major concessions, so you have to give them some credit for that. If I were Gettlefinger, I wouldn’t want to bend over again; take a tough position, let the negotiations proceed from there.

  • avatar
    geeber

    The UAW is hardly the last bastion of the middle class. If anything, its members earn MORE than most white-collar employees in this area. Yet people around here aren’t living in mud huts and running around naked.

    Granted, the UAW has been able to insulate its members from job losses through the Jobs Bank, but that may end up being one of the factors that kills the golden goose.

  • avatar
    Gary Numan

    UAW = Parasite
    GM, Ford, Chrysler = Hosts

    Story headline here should be……”Parasite kills existing Hosts, looks for new Host in the form of the USA Government”.. ie us taxpayers.

    What are the benefits or value proposition for the vehicle buyer that the union provides over other USA labor that is not unionized in other plants? Are UAW vehicles better quality? Better priced? Better resale value? Better technology? Better MPG? Less Polluting? What? What?

    How about the whole market concept and reality that many USA vehicle buyers purposely avoid buying UAW built vehicles out of disdain and disgust for the UAW.

    BTW….Shirley Bassey is the best Bond song singer!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The UAW is hardly the last bastion of the middle class. If anything, its members earn MORE than most white-collar employees in this area. Yet people around here aren’t living in mud huts and running around naked.

    The point is that the opportunity for the average person to earn a wage that was more or less at functional parity with that of thirty to fifty years ago is gone.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t at all like the UAW’s methods or it’s short-term-gain, damn-the-torpedoes mentality, but a middle-class that’s less beholden to creditors and more independently wealthy is also far less likely to be exploited and manipulated by the wealthy. And yet we’re actively cheering for the destruction of the empowered through questions like “Why, if the “average” worker outside of UAW shops doesn’t make UAW money, should anyone?”.

    And that’s the wrong question to ask.

    The question we should be asking is “Why are we allowing the middle-class wage erosion to occur?”. Have a listen to this podcast by Walter Benn Michaels: it’s indirectly about wage erosion (the topic is the fallacy of purpose of affirmative action, but the reason for that fallacy is fascinating). Gutting the middle class does America no favours at all, and yet both poles of the political spectrum have been hoodwinked into supporting it.

    It’s a disturbingly American attitude: to begrudge collective prosperity because of individual bitterness. There’s far too much whining about “Why does X make more money than me for a job I value less?” or “Why should I pay for X’s health care?” when the real questions should be “Why am I working eighty hour weeks with no compensation?” and “Why do I have to pay so goddamn much to see a doctor?”

  • avatar
    AG

    You know, running around naked is totally underrated!

    “But officer, I lost my job and had to choose between food or clothes!”

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Pre-Chapter 11 Bailout:

    The US is on the hook for:

    -Giving them enough to pay off huge debt.
    -Giving them enough for the pay-offs to shut down excess dealerships and brands.
    -Giving them enough continue to pay idiots like Waggoner.
    -Giving them enough for their pension obligations.
    -No end in sight.

    Post-Chapter 11 Bailout:

    The US is on the hook for:

    -Only the Pensions that exceed what the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp reserves can cover.
    -Possibly some debtor-in-possession financing for reorganized, leaned-down, viable businesses.
    -Possibly charging GM and Ford an insurance premium to underwrite their warranties.
    –None of the big three debt or dealership obligations (shutting down Oldsmobile alone cost billions).

    The choice is easy.

    With regard to the UAW – the legacy costs for retired workers are very high, and may have to fall on the PBGC (as mentioned above it is still the better option). However, the problem with current workers is more that there are too many of them, not that they are paid too much.

  • avatar
    sbelgin

    Lets be honest here. GM, Ford and especially Chrysler have no models that will sustain them.

    GM- Corvette and Trucks
    Ford- Mustang and trucks
    Chrysler- trucks

    They make no money on the other cars in the lineup that someone will buy.
    Giving them money to “retool” for what;

    A hybrid- Toyota has that covered
    A small sporty econo-car- Honda has that covered
    A luxury car- MB, BMW, Lexus have that covered
    A sports car- Porsche, Nissan, BMW have that covered.

    Even if they made exact clones of Toyota, Honda models, people will still buy the real Toyota or Honda.

    No one wants to by a Chevrolet car, a Ford car or a Chrysler car.

    I grew up as part of the Big 3 culture. The new generation of buyer thinks of Honda, Toyota, BMW before they think of the old Big 3.

    The money is better spent on the suppliers that need to survive to support the new powers of the auto industry. There is no way that money is going to help any of the Big 3- they are toast, as is the Union. Welcome to the real world- if you can’t sell for more than it costs to build then you have no business- shut it down.

    Or sell out to the Chinese- the money used for the bailout is coming from them anyway.

  • avatar
    mel23

    What’s with the resentment of UAW workers, over the years, negotiating good wages and benefits for themselves? Is it jealousy? Do they make more than you? Is it because you think they don’t have degrees and you do and therefore they should make less? I’ve read many comments from people claiming to work on the line and claiming to have degrees; is it OK then for them to have a good wage/benefit package? Have you considered the fact that the health insurance for UAW workers pays part of the health care cost for non-paying users of the health care system, as in emergency room visits? Do you understand that the income taxes they pay help pay for your schools, etc.? I just don’t get it, and it seems to me to be a very unhealthy aspect of this society.

  • avatar
    ra_pro

    Nobody has the balls to point out that Mr.Gettelfinger is just doing his job protecting the interest of the working people? Again the workers have minimal responsibility for this situation. They have no say about the way the company is run except in regards to their own compensation and even for that they have to haggle for months.

    If the top echelons of GM did half as good a job in their positions as Gettelfinger is doing I am sure GM wouldn’t be in this mess. In fact since there is nothing to lose now why doesn’t the federal government put in as one of the conditions of any bailout that management and workers switch their roles? This would give us a good idea who is worth what whether the executive idiots are worth even the 150K that supposedly the workers get paid. I bet most wouldn’t be worth that much on the assembly line. Yet they collect millions, bonuses, bankruptcy-proof pensions sitting on their ass behind their expensive exotic wood desks.

    But let’s blame Marx for the incompetence of Wagoner. If Wagoner had as much smarts in his head as Marx had in his left foot finger GM would still be king. Under socialism the idiots were often at the top of many companies the difference was their were only paid about 3-4 times the workers salaries. And let me tell you I would be hard-pressed to think of a socialist CEO who was as incompetent as Wagoner.

    But let’s get to Gettelfinger’s claims. Would Mr. Niedermeyer care to explain what exactly is wrong with the points being made?

    For Christ’s sake Wall Street got 700 bil. And that’s just the official figure bandied about. By the time it’s all done it’s going to be more like 1.5 – 2 trillion according to respected economists and that’s just if the US economy avoids depression, with depression who knows.

    Do the Detroit workers go on junkets to Scotland and California like the good people from AIG fresh of their 125 billion gift from the US treasury. And again 125 billion is just to get started on AIG. And the posters here complain about 25 billion for assembly line workers who just want to keep their job, pension and medical insurance.

    Wow, Americans, you truly are a breed apart!

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    Treasury spent $350 Billion, just gave the money to the banks with no voting interest and no strings. The money did nothing for the credit crisis.

    You can’t compare Detroit with cars built in Germany, Japan, or Canada. Get this: People there pay very little for health care or college.

    People in the U.S. can pay $30k for a broken arm, or 45k for a year of college. It costs more to live here. In fact, it cost three times more to live in the U.S. than in Mexico.

    It is easy say, let the carmakers go under. But whose side are you on? The Chinese? When one in ten is out of work, when the suppliers go under, then all you will have left is your blame for the unions. Guess what? They have unions in Germany, Canada and Japan too. More than us.

  • avatar
    phaphaphooey

    The manner in which the UAW is singlehandedly choking the big 3 is absolutely shameful. One would think that a group of people would not be so utterly selfish as to jeopordize the American economy and so incredibly shortsighted that they are willing to bite the hand that feeds them and refuse the take a pay cut so that their employer can survive unassisted, instead insisting that their workers continue to be compensated on the same level as many highly educated professionals for performing menial, unskilled labor. Sickening.

  • avatar

    Love how these type of posts always bring out the Commies and the Multiple-Personality wackos.

    ~$33/hr. (in 2008 $US, indexed)
    -That’s what Detroit should be paying for its nut-tighteners in total package of Salary+401k+Health.

    @Gary Numan: I concur.

  • avatar
    ERJR

    Yeah, disgusting but expected. Even more disgusting was Wagoneer trying to play the main street card of pity to Congress in hopes of a blank check. Instead he should be trying to sell Congress on the plan to keep GM in business but then again, that would require having a plan. At least Mullally can sort of show Congress what Ford’s future is riding on(euro Focus, Fiesta,and new Taurus.) More importantly, Ford isn’t going out of business before the end of the year.

  • avatar
    Dr. Remulac

    Sorry, I don’t get the people here that can’t understand criticism of the Unions.

    We all know America is not perfect and the people in charge make too much for the jobs they perform. But why should that mean we should side with the UAW and not critisize.

    I grew up with the same story line as TaurusGT500 but different industry and different part of the US. I grew up in a one company town where the union ate it’s young in the late 70’s to 80’s and by early 90’s, 90% of the blue collar jobs were gone. They truly did not know how good they had it.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    If you compared six brands of computers, and you found that the three that were worst all got a major component from the same source, and none of the others did, then you might blame that component for the failure of those products and companies.

    You might be wrong, but the burden of proof would be on the other side.

    Of course, this is about cars and the component is UAW labor.

    One other thing, many, if not most, UAW workers have more education than HS. At least they likely could get accepted. Instead, they went for lifetime employment so they could have a nearly free lunch. They were trapped by that choice, and by the UAW who got them into a rotten deal.

  • avatar
    50merc

    psarhjinian: “UAW jobs are one of the last bastions of middle-class jobs that pay well”

    I would say “UAW jobs are one of the last bastions of working-class jobs with upper-middle class compensation.” UAW members’ compensation packages put them pretty high on society’s income pyramid.

    UAW members’ pay and benefits are due to the Wagner Act, which established a labor monopoly for the D3 automakers, and the D3’s oligopolistic control over the US auto market. The UAW succeeded in wresting remarkable compensation from the D3, and before imports changed the marketplace, the D3 could pass on the “UAW surcharge” to consumers. Who paid the price? Everyone who bought a domestic car. That has changed, however. Detroit still pays the UAW surcharge, but in addition must cut the prices of their vehicles below that of the more popular foreign brands.

    Gettlefinger protested “further deep cuts in wages and benefits for active and retired workers.” Well, to be precise: the “deep cuts” in wages are mostly prospective, and will apply to new hires. The “cuts” in benefits for UAW retirees have been modest (e.g., a prescription co-pay). I am sure that if the lazy media provided us with actual dollar amounts of pensions and other benefits the average American would find the “cuts” to be quite unimpressive.

    Filing for bankruptcy will be the true game-changing event.

  • avatar
    mitchim

    I’m no economist but here is your solution

    Cut military spending in HALF!
    Stop the national Debt from growing
    Offer cheeper secondary education and medical
    Lower wages can now follow

    Generally this may be hard to see but Up north in Canada we have access to medical and education for most every one. Of course I would HAVE to find a job with wages that can support myself and family’s medical education expences. I can’t even phathom what my education in the good old US of A would cost compaired to what I have paid for in Canada. Money spent on all is better done than money spent on a few. Sorry Detroit

  • avatar
    geeber

    psharjinian: The point is that the opportunity for the average person to earn a wage that was more or less at functional parity with that of thirty to fifty years ago is gone.

    Those opportunities still exist. The UAW never had a monopoly on those jobs, and, if anything, the union’s continued existence relied as much on the unsustainable Jobs Bank and a truck boom that put off the inevitable day of reckoning for the Detroit Three.

    Saying that middle class jobs will disappear with the UAW has as much credibility as saying that we won’t be able to buy a new car if GM goes under.

    psharjinian: And yet we’re actively cheering for the destruction of the empowered through questions like “Why, if the “average” worker outside of UAW shops doesn’t make UAW money, should anyone?”.

    And that’s the wrong question to ask.

    Most of us aren’t asking that question. Instead, we are asking why we should be expected to subsidize through our tax dollars jobs that have no reason to exist, because the demand for the product the workers make does not exist.

    Or, at least, said demand doesn’t exist in quantities sufficient enough to ensure employment at current levels, and customers clearly aren’t willing to pay a price high enough for the product to allow companies to subsidize the Jobs Bank.

    The union wants government aid because it knows the real answer to the dilemma faced by GM and Chrysler (not so much Ford) is a reorganization that involves shutting down factories, divisions and dealers. All of which will result in a major reduction in the number of both white-collar and blue-collar employees.

    psharjinian: The question we should be asking is “Why are we allowing the middle-class wage erosion to occur?”.

    The UAW members make wages above most middle class Americans. And please note that the workers at the transplant operations make solid incomes. They aren’t making the minimum wage, despite the hysterical claims of the UAW and its supporters.

    psharjinian: It’s a disturbingly American attitude: to begrudge collective prosperity because of individual bitterness.

    What I see is a spoiled union demanding that people who had nothing to do with Detroit’s demise step up to the plate so that it can pretend that it’s still 1965.

    I don’t care if UAW members make $200,000 a year and have four months of paid vacation. If their company can afford it, good for them for grabbing as many golden eggs as the goose can lay.

    But when times go bad, it’s not my responsibility to ensure that UAW members can live in the style to which they have become accustomed.

    The UAW reminds me of a teenager with wealthy parents. He had the best of everything because mom and dad were rolling in the money. Which was great while it lasted. But now mom has lost her job, and dad took a cut in pay, and said teenager expects ME to step up and allow him to continue living the good life.

    carlos.negros: You can’t compare Detroit with cars built in Germany, Japan, or Canada.

    We don’t have to. We can compare their cars to cars built in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas by the transplants. Employees at these facilities receive health care coverage through their employers.

    carlos.negros: Get this: People there pay very little for health care or college.

    They pay through their taxes, and everyone who can afford to do so supplements their coverage with private insurance.

    And their colleges and universities, with few exceptions, tend to be worth about what they cost. The U.S. is still the leader in higher education, precisely BECAUSE its universities and colleges are relatively expensive and not open to just anyone.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Cut military spending in half?

    41 cut military spending much less than that and nearly destroyed the army. The only place to save money is by cutting troops. Troops are all trying to retire because without retirement benefits it’s stupid to stay in longer than a single tour.

    You can’t get away with it again any time soon.

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