By on February 14, 2009

If you recall, President Bush gave GM some money ($9.4b) and told them to come back later for more ($4b). The second tranche (as gourmands would say) depending on sorting out the United Auto Workers (UAW), convincing bondholders to swap debt for equity and rationalizing their brand portfolio. Anybody familiar with the UAW, rapacious capitalists (are there any other kind?) and General Motors knew that the chances of ANY of that happening were somewhere between none and the situation going in reverse. And so it hasn’t come to pass. After we learned that GM bondholders aren’t playing ballAutomotive News reports that the UAW has walked away from the ballpark. It seems the union isn’t happy with GM’s insistence that the union accept stock in lieu of cash for the GM-funded Mother of All Health Care Funds (a.k.a. VEBA). Did I say GM-funded? We’re on the hook now. Anyway, why would the UAW step up to the plate? The union would have to accept the idea that GM has a future when they, of all people, know it doesn’t.

The UAW is owed some $20 billion by GM, money pledged to a healthcare trust fund for retirees. It faces demands from the company that it surrender a claim on half of that amount in exchange for stock in a recapitalized GM.

But the union has balked at saddling retired workers with additional risk. GM’s bondholders, who are being asked to write off some $18 billion in debt in exchange for GM stock, have also held out for better terms, people briefed on the talks have said.

So now we’re left with GM’s “secret” admission that Congress faces a stark choice: continue to prop-up a failed enterprise with taxpayer money or throw GM into bankruptcy. Who knew?

As strange as this sounds, I bet they’ll give GM and Chrysler the money. It’s too early in the Obama Administration to piss on illusory rainbows, and there are plenty of people who remain in denial about the parlous state of the Big 2.8 and yes, the U.S. economy.

When the situation doesn’t get any better heading into winter of ’09, when the mood turns from hopeful to resigned, THEN Congress will pull the plug, as part of their new “get tough” gestalt.

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42 Comments on “Bailout Watch 392: The UAW Walks...”


  • avatar
    tankd0g

    I was wondering what took so long for you to post this story :) People buying GM products now must never read a news paper or take some really high grade anti-depressants because we are well past put a fork in it time now.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    I was wondering when this would be mentioned. Reuters had an article about Chapter 11 this morning.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE51D1Q120090214
    I just think it is time to get on with it already. Reorganize. Sure, it will kill Southeast Michigan, but it would be worse in 6 months when the government grows tired of handing them a few billion a month.

  • avatar
    kaleun

    If I would write what I think of people who stil buy Chrysler or GM cars I would be banned for flaming… Let’s give them the benefit of a doubt, maybe they are overly optimistic that:
    a) the car they buy is good
    b) the resale value and warranty are worth anything in 6 months

    or its just the discounts…. or it is old people only (Buick drivers?) that don’t think they will live for long anyway…

    Even if I liked the deal, I would only buy cars from non-wellfare companies. just because it is pissing me so off that we have to pay for those companies…

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If the trustees of the VEBA took GM equity in lieu of cash at this point, they would risk being sued for breach of fiduciary duty. The trustees of the VEBA are only supposed to look out for the interests of the retirees in the VEBA and not the continuing workers. It has always been problematic ethically for UAW officials to run the VEBA and the union at the same time.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    It looks like the UAW is on a Kamikaze mission. I don’t think that was exactly what people meant when they said that the UAW needs to adopt Japanese practices, but NSFW ’em.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    kaleun:

    Some of the cars are good. I’m somewhat conflicted between picking up some of the good deals out there and supporting the bailout, which isn’t saving the Detroit automakers but only the parasitic managers, dealers and UAW workers that feast off them.

    My solution will probably be buying late model used.

  • avatar
    lw

    I agree with RF… They will give them more money, no matter how crappy the “plans” are.

    Congress will simply say that Bush didn’t provide enough time to work out very complex issues.

    The real issue are the suppliers that are pretty much toast at this point. The more interesting story is how/if Uncle Sugar will support the hundreds of suppliers.

    I doubt there will even be public hearings.. Maybe just a few meetings with the Treasury dept. and an announcement of some more billions from the TARP or some other program.

    Last week 600+K new unemployment claims.. and it’s only getting worse…

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Re: Conslaw

    Did I just see you use the words “ethically” and “UAW Officials” in the same sentence…?

    Yes. Yes you did.

    I must admit It will be interesting to see on who’s side they come down on – active or retired – when the cash runs out.

    I’m thinking that it will be the active employees accompanied by a massive lobbying campaign for Gov’t bailout of the retirees – far beyond what any other retired person in a similar situation would get.

  • avatar

    I doubt there will even be public hearings.

    The deadline is when, 2/17? That’s Tuesday. Any travel plans? Jetgate? Convoys? Nada. They’ll probably send in the plans via e-mail. Or have already received an extension.

  • avatar
    lw

    Maybe a Wednesday WSJ headline…

    “1000+ page stimulus bill that passed without being read by anyone included $15B for the auto industry in interest free loans”

    Betcha the deal is already done….

  • avatar

    The UAW should talk to some of their Union buddies in the steel & railroad industries, or maybe the air traffic controllers, or the Pilots of Pan Am, Eastern, National, TWA, Braniff, etc. Oh wait.. nevermind, they’re all gone.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Wild prediction: Wagoner and the rest of the Board Of Bystanders (TM – Farago) will resign in the next 48hrs. There will be an extension, plus a few billion in loose taxpayer change will be provided. Chrysler will be shot, dawn, Wednesday morning.

  • avatar
    Packard

    It was no accident that the WSJ got the story for Saturday that GM’s brass was saying either billions more from the feds or Chapter 11. That was just another way of pushing around Obama.

    Obama set himself up for this one with the “stimulus bill.” After all the lard loaded into that one for every Democratic party constituency, can anyone seriously believe that Obama isn’t going to keep the UAW sucking the platinum-plated benefits that have run the car companies into the ground?

    GM’s threat to go Chapter 11 is simply a threat designed to get the Congress of management’s back: either come up with the dough, or we leave it to the courts to decide whether the UAW has a contract or health care, or not.

    Wagoner has his butt covered on this one. Both he and the Gettelfinger blame the bondholders for not being willing to take a haircut.

    What the bondholders ought to be doing is putting GM into bankruptcy involuntarily, and suing the feds, and GM’s board, for having attempted to take a federal loan that took priority over the bondholder’s security agreements and their loan agreements.

    I keep wondering when, one of these days, one of GM’s unpaid suppliers is going to get sufficiently pissed to file an involuntary bankruptcy petition against the company. GM might be able to beat it, but it might not. And, just filing that petition would call the whole house of cards in – and be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Gotta think that’s coming sooner or later. The feds aren’t recapitalizing the company. They’re just stalling, at everyone’s expense.

    And, where was the plan about how you sell more cars?

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    For all the hating on the UAW, the fact remains that GM agreed that “The UAW is owed some $20 billion by GM” for the healthcare trust fund. Maybe GM thought HR Clinton’s plan was going to be successful?

    I’ll admit that the UAW didn’t help the situation much, but they didn’t design those POSs, they didn’t source those POS plastics, and they didn’t have anything to do with GM not funding their obligations when times were fat (i.e. in the late 90’s/early naughts when gas was cheap and everyone was rolling giant SUVs paid for with tax-deductible home-equity loans).

  • avatar
    King Bojack

    Neither the UAW or the management is anywhere near as at fault as the complacent shit bag politicians and the crappier people who re-elect some of the same failing douches for years on end.

    It would be one thing if it was just the Auto sector of domestic owned manufacturing to have been fucked bad in the past few decades but good luck finding tools, microwaves, computer chips, metal alloys, clothing, lots of furniture etc. made in America. The big 3 wouldn’t be in a big ass VEBA hole if we installed universal health care and ratcheted down on the health care industry here but the gubment is too dickless for that.

  • avatar
    kamikaze2b

    @Chuck

    The controllers are still around, and unionized for that matter.

    http://www.natca.org/

  • avatar
    TEW

    I can’t believe I am saying this but GM’s management is playing their cards right. The American taxpayer will not be happy having to bail GM out for the 2nd time and after the stimulus was passed. The UAW will be in the hands of congress who is getting worried about all of the bail outs or a bankruptcy judge. This is the kind of leverage that is the best union buster.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    I don’t think the UAW is much of an issue as far as GM’s survival goes.

    At this point they could probably work for free and GM would still be finished. They would just be building cars no one wants that would sit on a lot somewhere unsold. In this environment why should the Union budge at all? They won’t be saving GM, just screwing their own membership and accomplishing nothing.

    Universal health care would do more to save US Industry than any union concessions. Worker pay cuts will only add to the economic problems.

  • avatar
    Detroit Todd

    The UAW should talk to some of their Union buddies in the steel & railroad industries, or maybe the air traffic controllers, or the Pilots of Pan Am, Eastern, National, TWA, Braniff, etc. Oh wait.. nevermind, they’re all gone.

    GM should talk to some of their corporate buddies at Studebaker, Hudson, Nash, Cord…nevermind they’re all gone.

    The UAW will be in the hands of congress who is getting worried about all of the bail outs or a bankruptcy judge. This is the kind of leverage that is the best union buster.

    GM will be in the hands of congress….or a bankruptcy judge.

    Anyway, no one has addressed why the UAW should bend over when the bondholders are being primadonnas and GM Management remains clueless. Perhaps the UAW is taking the position that if they go down, they’re taking GM’s boardroom and bondholders with them.

    There’s your leverage.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    @King Bojak,

    Life is easy when someone else is in charge. So long as the malady with which you’re afflicted falls within one of the ICD-9 codes for which they’ll pay.

    But you have to ask the question: who pays for government health care when the government is broke? China?

    As they say in the UK: The National Health Service is great, until you’re sick. Of course, the life expectancy for cancer patients over there is five years less than in the USA (they can’t afford the good shit that kills cancer faster) and things like Crohn’s disease are neither recognized nor treated. So, you can pic your poison on that one. I hope you are well. ;-}

    But you have struck a chord of truth. I have mooted before this whole current economic scenario is being manipulated to bring national health care and other government suck programs to the voting public (a body decreasingly composed of actual American citizens). Let’s see how long it takes for Obama to suggest that NHC would save America’s all-important manufacturing base by relieving the working man of the cost of his own well-being and placing it on…the working man’s employer. Ha!

  • avatar
    dougjp

    GM will get the money regardless of the show that gets put on, regardless of what gets said. From the overall standpoint of the economy, if anyone gets dealt with seriously, they have to do it gradually, one Company at a time. Pretty obvious that means Chrysler first.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The unions think the Dems owe them this one. I assume that they were told not to worry, it’s in the bag.

  • avatar
    golf4me

    “Anyway, no one has addressed why the UAW should bend over when the bondholders are being primadonnas “

    Umm, well bondholders invested people’s hard earned money into the company with a reasonable expectation of an ROI > 0. The UAW has nothing at all invested in the company, and frankly gets a lot more than they deserve. Funny how the MSM wants to cap execs pay when companies are doing poorly, but alas, no mention of UAW having to give up a dime. The UAW does not care if GM goes under, anyway. They know that Congress will pass the card-check law, and then they’ll just make up for the loss of GM at Toyota, Nissan, VW, BMW, MB, Hyundai, Kia….THAT’s the Truth behind them walking away.

  • avatar
    mel23

    I don’t think the UAW is much of an issue as far as GM’s survival goes.

    At this point they could probably work for free and GM would still be finished. They would just be building cars no one wants that would sit on a lot somewhere unsold. In this environment why should the Union budge at all? They won’t be saving GM, just screwing their own membership and accomplishing nothing.

    Universal health care would do more to save US Industry than any union concessions. Worker pay cuts will only add to the economic problems.

    I think this is correct. Neither the UAW, the bond holders, suppliers nor dealers are going to volunteer to kill themselves while the other parties are still standing. Continuous bailouts or a bankruptcy court are the only alternatives.

    Part of Corker’s mantra is to make the 2.3 wages equal to the transplant’s. And just what is that? It’s all over the map. What is the difference in pay times hours per car at the assembly plant? And how does this compare with the incentives the 2.3 have put on the hoods for years? It isn’t, and hasn’t been, about price. It’s about keeping the products updated and perceived quality, and the 2.3 have dug their own graves.

    Isn’t it the case that the govt. will have some number of days to consider the presented plans before deciding to give more or pull the plugs? Tuesday will be another day of political grandstanding regardless.

    As for smacking Obama and the Democrats around on how they’ll handle this, how much different would W and the Republicans do? I think not much. The only time they pulled the plug on a financial outfit, the bottom fell out. An even bigger problem relates to the suppliers. A hell of alot more jobs are at stake dispersed over a wider geographic area. Let’s see republicans beat their chests after cutting off the spigot as the plants in their districts shut down.

  • avatar
    50merc

    mistrernee: “Universal health care would do more to save US Industry than any union concessions.”

    There’s something about that widely-advocated nostrum that is reminiscent of the Ghost Dancers.

    There’s already a universal health care plan for GM’s retirees who have reached age 65. It’s called Medicare. So how’s that working out for GM? Its UAW retirees’ gold-plated health benefits from their ex-employer are a huge financial burden, even though the former workers have Medicare.

    And as informed people know, Medicare and Medicaid funding issues are like the iceberg in the Titanic’s path. Actually, it’s worse. DC and the states are already struggling to fund medical benefits. We’d better hope China is willing to buy the bonds we’ll have to issue to pay for “universal” medical benefits.

    Oh, some say it’ll be so much more efficient to have a single-payer system. Which ignores the fact that our existing single-payer systems (such as Medicare) are administrative nightmares.

    Quick. Cheap. Quality. Choose any two.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    Just a quick note. The survival rate for cancer after five years in England is not half what it is in the US, but it is lower, and it is also lower than most of the other countries of Europe that have socialized medicine.

    More telling are the overall mortality rates. While those of us who have good or great health insurance have access to some of the best medicine in the world, those who are not insured do not have access. According to the UN, the US ranks 45th nationally in life expectancy. It seems as if some people benefit from having access to health care.

  • avatar
    like.a.kite

    When the situation doesn’t get any better heading into winter of ’09, when the mood turns from hopeful to resigned, THEN Congress will pull the plug, as part of their new “get tough” gestalt.

    What a lot of money blown. Oh won’t someone think of the Africans?

    ruckover: what in the hell are you talkin boot, son? I can’t comprehend the second clause of your second sentence.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @me23 “Neither the UAW,the bondholders the suppliers or dealers are willing to kill themselves” you nailed it mel23.You to Detroit -Iron.Indeed why should the UAW bend over?

    GM management has had two months to work on this.
    What have they got done?Oh I’d say 200 meetings or so,some commitees have been formed,a few press releases.GM management has done what they do best.
    They stood around and did SFA and waited for somebody else to make a decision.Well that somebody else is the U.S.President.

    I kind’a like Pete Morans prediction,Rick W and the top management should resign.The board of bystanders should also go.Somebody needs to take the helm and make the hard decisions.If chapter 11 is it,lets do it.

    Its time for the UAW/CAW, salary workers suppliers ,dealers,bondholders,and even us pensioners hourly and salary,to bury our differences

    .Everyone of us has to make some sacrifices.The UAW won’t back down,the bond holders say “not us”.The dealers are firm,if you kill Pontiac or Buick we want compensation,or will sue ya.The salary guys are saying “GM needs us Talking to my fellow retirees,the concensus is
    one of “they owe us we earned it”

    It’s becoming increasingly evident that a day of reckoning is coming and coming fast.I would love to see GM and the rest of us stakeholders,including the US taxpayer determine our own destiny.Pehaps President Obama has such a plan.We can only hope.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Re: mel23

    “Universal health care would do more to save US Industry than any union concessions…..”

    Not this old chestnut again….

    While we can argue ad nauseum about this one I would ask that American proponents of this do something that they’ve never done – or at best, don’t like doing – and that is looking at other(s) whom already have Socialized medicine and critically evaluate the pro’s and con’s.

    For example:

    Cost of universal health car is lower (as measured per GDP). True. However is it because the system is that much more efficient or is it because of rationing?

    Socialized health care provides longer life expectancies. Questionable. When you normalize the demographic/social/economic factors – the correlation is not so strong. Wealthier people are healthier then poor people – the world around.

    Let’s bring this discussion home and back to cars.

    Experience has demonstrated that the best gov’t universal coverages look more like the worlds worst HMO and not at all like what the UAW currently enjoys.

    Just how excited would any US Unions be if they knew socialized medicine meant such a drastic cut in care and coverages?

  • avatar
    King Bojack

    @ dgduris:

    I never suggested that we model our health care after UK or Canada (they apparently have shoddy health care systems) but a system like Japan where every one pays into it and the government helps prevent the cartel style pricing schemes and issues that our medical and insurance systems have.

    At any rate, if the big 3 were rid of the UAW and all their shit they could probably hire people at break neck rates, put the cars together, sell for less than the foreigners and still make a tidy profit. I’m convinced that the big 3 have been dawdling along for 3 decades letting the unions do themselves in.

    The top brass are all rich outside ego they could give a fuck if their companies go under so all this half assing for so long is a dog and pony show while they let the UAW get so weak they don’t matter.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    “The UAW does not care if GM goes under, anyway. They know that Congress will pass the card-check law, and then they’ll just make up for the loss of GM at Toyota, Nissan, VW, BMW, MB, Hyundai, Kia….THAT’s the Truth behind them walking away.”

    Then those companies could relocate North American production to Mexico too. Seriously, I can’t see Toyota et-al standing by while the unions move in. They’d simply shift production elsewhere. It would be cheaper in the long run.

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    Socialized Medicine takes a lot of the burden off of Companies to provide healthcare for their workers, thats my only point.

    No, it’s not perfect. Nothing ever is, but it’s like pointing out flaws in your buddies newish car when your own car is covered in rust, has a cloud of blue smoke following it everywhere and a sagging headliner.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    @King,

    We do have that system. It is called RBRVS (Resource-based- relative value scale).

    RBRVS decides that – for example – a urologist in LA is reimbursed more than one in Lexington, KY for the same procedure.

    RBRVS is used nationally by Medicare and virtually every HMO to set compensation – the last time I worked in that world.

    I really am not a proponent of anyone, anywhere other than my back yard (not the District of Columbia) deciding how my dyslipidemia should be treated or how my kid should be educated.

    Hell, these people can’t even secure our borders – which is supposed to be job 1 for a federal government.

    @mkirk,
    Ah! Now I further understand the card-check piece of this. Thank you!

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Boy do I love reading what Americans think they know about socialized medicine. First of all, no one, not one member of your government has put forth a plan for socialized medicare. Not Obama, not one of the crazies like Ron Paul. All anyone in the US government has for a “plan” is to give one or a handful of for-profit insurance companies the contract for the entire country and maybe negotiate a good rate split between you and your employer which will of course be bumped up year over year until you’re all screwed once again. That is NOT SOCIALIZED HEALTH CARE.

    Second, you all love to talk about how much better this disease or that disease is treated in America, well I don’t disagree. If you have $150,000 a year to pay to the cancer Treatment Center of America, you probably get a damn fine looking after. If you don’t, well at least it’s over fairly quickly right? Dying is your own fault for not having insurance isn’t it? I mean when you’re 20 years old living on your own and working at McDonald’s, you should be looking for a way to pay someone $150/month in case you get sick, it’s just common sense..

    There’s a reason GM isn’t in the same trouble with the CAW. The CAW may be run by the same sort of douche bags, but at least their members don’t have to worry about what will happen if they or their families come down with MS while they’re unemployed.

  • avatar
    windswords

    mistrernee:

    “Universal health care would do more to save US Industry than any union concessions. Worker pay cuts will only add to the economic problems.”

    As I have pointed out before on this site the UAW will not accept Universal care. If the gov’mnt adopts a socialized medicine policy then everyone will get “Chevy Aveo” coverage (except of course the Soft Drink, Pelosi, Reid, and Teddy, who if he were in the UK would have been told “Sorry mate, you’re too old for that procedure” – they will get “Cadillac” coverage.) The UAW now gets “Cadillac” coverage. Hell, they get “Mercedes/Lexus” coverage. They are not going to exchange that for “Chevy Aveo” coverage. So if the gov’mnt passes health care reform the UAW will demand that they continue to get the coverage that they are accustomed to. So it will not benefit the domestic auto industry one bit, but we will all suffer for it I guarantee that.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ mikey

    I kind’a like Pete Morans prediction,Rick W and the top management should resign.The board of bystanders should also go.Somebody needs to take the helm and make the hard decisions.If chapter 11 is it,lets do it.

    I just think it provides the perfect set of excuses for those people to exit.

    They (Wagoner et al) can say “Well, we tried everything we knew to rescue the company, but look over there at the UAW/bond holders road-blocking our plans”.

    It would also fit beautifully politically too, because they can say “We thank the previous management for their efforts to find the necessary solutions, but we’re now installing the Car Czar to ensure GM can continue on the path to restructure.”

  • avatar
    windswords

    ruckover:

    “According to the UN, the US ranks 45th nationally in life expectancy.”

    I can’t say about overall mortality rates, but the US’s low ranking in infant mortality rates is due to unchecked illegal immigration. When you flood your country with millions of people who have no health insurance and work jobs “under the table”, and who are afraid sometimes to seek medical care until it becomes serious, you have more kids die. Japan has very strict immigration laws and here’s the catch, they actually ENFORCE them (novel concept, eh? And being an island doesn’t hurt). Imagine what a body blow their mortality rates would take if they were suddenly flooded with 3-5 million “undocumented workers”.

    Bottom line you can’t rate the US healthcare system on these statistics alone because they are skewed by our defacto open border policy. The truth is that those who have even minimal health insurance do very well (and pay for some who don’t have coverage).

    The other contributing factor is the fact that we gave away our industrial base (the very jobs that had health coverage) and exchanged them for jobs at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. Those types of jobs were never supposed to provide health coverage. They were meant for kids, moms, and seasoned citizens to make some extra money, not make a living. You can force these companies to provide health coverage, but you will pay $7 for a Big Mac, $9.50 for grilled chicken sandwich.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ windswords

    Remember, you always have that open invite from me to see how Healthcare is done in Australia.

    Some whingers here and there as anything medical can ALWAYS be improved, but we’re a happy, healthy, lot down here.

    @ tankd0g

    Thanks for that post.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Well, my theory above (which I own, and what it is to) might have received a boost;

    Obama Will Not Name ‘Car Czar’ to Oversee Detroit

    In short, Prez OB is proposing a ‘taskforce’ to run the show. Board/management gone with oversight panel in.

    (Anyway – I keep myself amused).

  • avatar
    ruckover

    windswords

    Milwaukee has a horrible problem with infant mortality, but the issue is not caused by immigrants. The problem comes from poor women who do not have access to primary care.

    When manufacturing left, so did our heath care.

  • avatar
    windswords

    ruckover,

    See paragraph 3 of my comment. In your area illegal immigration is not the cause. In the southern and border states (I live in one) it is very much a factor. I would suspect that a majority or significant minority of those poor women in Milwaukee are having out of wedlock births. If we could impress on our kids to stay in school and not have babies until they are married we could drastically cut down on infant mortality. I guess that smacks too much of morality to some.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Windswords says that the UAW will never accept universal care. False. Ron Gettelfinger has come out publicly in favor of a single-payor healthcare system. Rick Wagoner hasn’t come right out and stated that he favors national health insurance, but he’s hinted at it.

    As to rationing: every healthcare system has rationing. Reason: you spend none of your money on healthcare, you live for while then you die, whereas if you spend all of your money on healthcare, you live for awhile, then you die. The hard part is coming up with a balance, figuring how much to spend on healthcare and how much for everything else. With national health insurance, healthcare spending is a public policy choice not a matter of individual ability to pay. If you don’t like the lines that they have in Canada, spend more money than the Canadians, and you won’t have to wait as long. The US can spend a lot more money than Canada on its national health insurance and still be spending less than what it does right now.

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