United Auto Workers Union President Ron Gettelfinger sees more new jobs in the U.S. auto industry as the nation begins its slow economic recovery and praises the current Chief Executives of the Domestic car and truck manufacturers.
Speaking to the Birmingham Senior Mens Club the outgoing head of the UAW said the Big Three are focused on product and committed to growing manufacturing in America. His comments were surprisingly upbeat and positive about industry management – a sharp contrast with the many past rebukes delivered by the union.
Regarding the domestic manufacturers, Gettelfinger called the Ford Motor Company team assembled by Chairman Bill Ford and President and CEO Allen Mullaly “second to none.”
Gettelfinger said General Motors CEO Ed Whittaker is progressive and committed to growth in the US. He cited the decision to build the Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range eletric vehicle, and the establishment of a factory to build batteries in Michigan as a major plus for the state and the nation.
Gettlfinger, in turn, called Chrysler CEO Marchione very knowledgeable and focused on improving products. The UAW head cautioned his audience not to believe the current street talk that “Chrysler will disappear”. He insisted that, “The Big Three are strong companies.”
Gettelfinger may have reason to be upbeat considering that each of the Detroit Three has announced plans to add new jobs. Just last week, Chrysler CEO Marchionne revealed plans to add a second shift – a move that will create more than 1,000 new blue-collar slots – at the Jefferson Avenue Assembly Plant, in Detroit, producing the new, 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Revealing that he just finished meeting with members of Congress on international trade, Gettelfinger said the US needs to negotiate agreements with Asian nations, like China, to deal with their currency manipulations, a problem that has made it difficult to compete in those markets with products made in America.
Calling for “fair” trade, rather tha free trade, the UAW head noted that some of the Asian nations have to be convinced to open their own markets to imported products. He cited the sale of 750,000 Korean vehicles in the US in 2009, while no foreign manufacturer sold more than 10,000 vehicles in Korea that same year.
The current push to “go green” in the auto industry will continue to gain momentum, said Gettelfinger. He added that this will help generate jobs in this country and that will help fuel the American economic recovery.
Noting that the UAW agreed to two-tier wages, he added, employers should not try to keep wages low. The UAW president, who retires at the end of this month, stressed, “The people in the new work force still have to make enough to be able to have a decent standard of living.”
While answering questions from the audience, Gettelfinger said incoming UAW President Bob King has years of experience in dealing with manufacturers and labor issues and has the ability to expand labor’s outreach.
Gettelfinger closed by saying, “I hope he (King) will be the best UAW president ever.”