With the 31 May deadline approaching for GM’s revised plan, the United Autoworkers Union on Friday sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress objecting to the centerpiece of GM’s Viability plan – closing 16 plants in the U.S. and importing vehicles from low-wage, non-unionized countries.
The factory closings are not new, they have been in various versions of the plan since GM went to the U.S. government for bridge loans late, last year, but in bringing the argument over the closings public, the union is attempting to prevent some of them through political pressure after apparently being shut down at the bargaining table. The implication is that the Auto Task Force has told the union that the closings will proceed.
Alan Reuther, UAW Legislative Director, wrote Congress that “As the discussions continue concerning the restructuring of General Motors, the UAW wishes to restate our strong opposition to the company’s plan to close 16 manufacturing facilities in the United States, while at the same time dramatically increasing the number of vehicles it will be importing from Mexico, Korea, Japan and China for sale in this country. We urge Members of Congress to join with the UAW in urging the Obama administration to insist, as part of any further government assistance, that GM should be required to maintain the maximum number of jobs in the U.S., instead of outsourcing more production to these other countries.”
The Chrysler restructuring plan now being worked out in bankruptcy court in New York City also closes U.S. factories and turns the company over to off-shore based Fiat. The factory closings, though, are smaller in number and the small cars and engines that will be supplied by Fiat will be built in the U.S., Canada or Mexico. Furthermore, by getting access to Fiat’s overseas distribution system, exports of Canadian or U.S. made vehicles could increase, preserving or creating UAW jobs.
The core issue the union is raising – U.S. jobs — is an aspect of industrial policy debates that politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties have ducked for decades. With unemployment at record levels and increasing, our lack of industrial policy is glaringly obvious. Every major nation in the world has policies, laws, tariffs and non-tariff regulations that protect jobs and encourage the export of goods and services into the large, profitable and unrestricted U.S. market.
U.S. employment continued to decline in April as another 539,000 jobs evaporated to total 13.7 million out of work people, and the unemployment rate rose from 8.5% to 8.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since the recession began in December 2007, 5.7 million jobs have been lost. In April, job losses were large and widespread across nearly all major private-sector industries. Overall, private-sector employment fell by 611,000. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has risen by 6.0 million, and the unemployment rate has grown by 3.9 percentage points.