The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


Auto Unions "Saved the Industry by Making Concessions"


AL BENCHICH, ajbenchich at
Retired president of UAW local 909 and a retired GM worker in Michigan of 36 years, Benchich said today: "The public airwaves are filled with straight on reporting of what these people [the Republican presidential candidates] are saying with hardly any critique of their statements. [Mitt] Romney especially is pretending that unions were the big beneficiaries of the 'auto bailout'. But it wasn't a bailout like the big banks got a bailout, it was a loan that's being paid back. I don't see Romney and company calling the bankers the villains for their actual bailouts.

"There's some discussion of restoring the middle class -- and it ignores how vibrant unions were critical to having a large middle class. And now, with the denigration of unions, we've seen the degeneration of the middle class.

"What happened with the loans to the auto industry is that the unions saved the industry by making concessions. One of the biggest concessions was agreeing that new workers -- including the ones everyone is now toting -- are only at about $14 an hour. Now, for a family of four, that's only a little above poverty level. That's not middle class.

"The union agreed to phase out the older workers with good wages and have new workers at a lower tier and I think that was a big mistake. What we should have pushed for was converting the industry to be more forward-looking -- making wind turbines, solar panels and high speed rail."

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