Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Buy It Here; Build It Here

USW President Leo Gerard is a soft-spoken man, but he has some blunt words about General Motors restructuring plans:
The proposition General Motors has presented to the United Auto Workers and American taxpayers in its latest restructuring plan is simple: You must pay for your own execution.

GM, which already took $15.4 billion in bailout money, wants another $11.6 billion and is offering in return this deal: It will close 16 of its American manufacturing plants, terminate 21,000 of its factory workers and double the cars it builds in low-wage Mexico, China and South Korea and ships back to the U.S. to sell.

There it is: GM is demanding that Americans pay to send their own jobs overseas.

In the world where corporate executives live, the one in which boards of directors grant CEOs multi-million dollar bonuses even after companies tank, maybe that’s not a perverse proposition.

But in the world where real Americans live, we’ve had enough of this crap. Decades of foolish tax and other federal policies that encouraged American manufacturing firms to throw Americans out of work and expatriate were bad enough. To expect American taxpayers to bankroll GM’s plans to layoff American workers and move their jobs overseas goes too far.
Gerard goes on to point out that this isn't just about the UAW or GM. This is about American manufacturing and the millions of people in good-paying jobs who depend on the auto industry - steelworkers, rubber workers, glass workers, healthcare, education, retail - a total of more than 7 million people.

What will we be left with if manufacturing dies? "America is in danger of attempting to subsist on an economy based on nothing more than amorphous derivatives, credit default swaps and Ponzi schemes." Manufacturing jobs helped millions of people achieve the American Dream and that dream is now under assault.
In just the past eight months of this recession, caused in huge part by recklessness on Wall Street, this country has lost 1.2 million manufacturing jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. GM cannot take tax dollars to slash more. Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich agrees. Here’s what he told the Washington Post, “. . . it raises fundamental questions about the purpose of bailing out these big companies. If GM is going to do more of its production overseas, then why exactly are we saving GM?”
Gerard says, "We have no intention of buying our own noose. We intend to win this fight." He's being joined in that fight by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Danny Glover and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, as well as the USW, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and the Mayors and Municipalities Automotive Coalition, among others. They're conducting an 11-state, 32-city protest bus tour: “Keep it Made in America.” The idea is simple. If we buy it here, we should build it here, which Gerard points out is not impossible for a U.S. auto company to do.
Ford Motor Co., which is not taking any bailout money, is investing $500 million in retooling its Michigan Truck plant outside Detroit so that it can make small cars that it will sell worldwide, including its next-generation, battery-electric Focus. And Chrysler, which is getting bailout money, has made a deal with Fiat under which the Italian car company will manufacture a small car in one of Chrysler’s U.S. assembly facilities, which, along with other long-term commitments, will eventually create 4,000 U.S. jobs.
At each stop along the tour, people are being asked to sign their petition supporting "Buy it here; build it here." Please click over and add your name too. They'll present the petitions at a teach-in conference in Washington, D.C. on May 19 when they'll explain to elected officials why GM’s plan fails America and why they must require GM to submit a new plan supporting American jobs.


K. said...

The biggest private employer in the country is Wal-Mart. I do not see how that is a positive development for the country. No one in their right mind can argue convincingly that the American middle class -- what's left of it -- is better off with Wal-Mart as their boss than they were with a unionized work force that produced something.

abi said...

I loved this para from Gerard's post:

Bernero is tired of Wall Street describing his father, a retired auto worker, as a legacy cost. His father is a human being, a senior citizen, who worked hard every day of his life and returned home exhausted from an honest day’s work. Now, however, Wall Street thinks it’s fine to reduce him to a sub-human term and cheat him out of the retirement benefits he earned.This makes retired people sound like lazy freeloaders, and it encourages younger workers to resent them to boot. This is one of the things corporations do best - turn us against each other.

Kathy said...

K, I agree with you. Wal-Mart wages have a downward effect on tax revenue and consumer spending. Our country needs to create good-paying jobs at all levels - not just at the top.

Abi, corporations use the same "fear" messaging as Republicans, and you're right, it's effective.

What we're doing to retirees in this country is immoral. These people played by the rules of their contracts and now they're being asked to sacrifice. That's just wrong. Retired CEOs, executives and politicians are never asked to give up their retirement benefits. It's always the little guys that get screwed over by the powerful. It truly is a rich man's world.

Kvatch said...

What will we be left with if manufacturing dies? "America is in danger of attempting to subsist on an economy based on nothing more than amorphous derivatives, credit default swaps and Ponzi schemes."Every empire in history that has gone this route has ceased to exist. We are no different.