Is Obama's Car Czar Plotting to Crush the Auto Unions?
Remember Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street? Specifically, remember how Gekko's entire scheme for the airline industry was based on crushing the blue-collar union that Bud Fox's dad (Martin Sheen) was part of? Welcome to a real life version of that story, starring corporate raider Steve Rattner, who President Obama appointed to head the White House team now overseeing the auto industry (and don't say you weren't warned).
As the Wall Street Journal reports, Rattner's strategy is to use the government's leverage to try to specifically crush auto workers and force them to accept even more contract concessions than they've already agreed to:
DETROIT -- President Barack Obama's recovery plan for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC appears to take aim at union retirees, a usually reliable Democratic constituency. After studying the plight of the companies, the president's auto task force concluded GM and Chrysler's survival is dependent on greater concessions from the United Auto Workers union.
The White House has total leverage over the situation because the UAW knows that if the industry doesn't get the loans it needs, it will be forced into bankruptcy court, where judges will shred labor contracts (somehow, AIG bonus contracts are sacrosanct, but union worker contracts can be shredded in a heartbeat). Indeed, many analysts believe this is the administration's ultimate goal.
IMHO, The most immoral part of this is the specific targeting of retirees.
As opposed to younger workers, retirees often can't get another job or go back to work because of obvious physical limitations. As one retiree said, "What 85-year-old can go out and get another job?"
I'm not saying that the auto industry's legacy costs are sustainable - not at all. But I am saying that when you put Gordon Gekko in control of government policy overseeing an industry, you are inevitably going to get a policy that assumes workers are the big problem. If you had a different kind of team, you may have a policy that says, for instance, we have to create a robust universal health care system before throwing retirees off their existing health care.
Last I checked, we have enough money to create that system just lying around ready to be handed out to Rattner's Wall Street friends. Hell, $8 trillion will get us a damn good universal health care system, won't it? Yes, it will - but it will also buy a lot of yachts for AIG execs, and when you have Gordon Gekko making public policy yachts come before health care.