As he visited the Daimler AG plant near Detroit Monday, President Barack Obama was given a firsthand look at some of the latest high-mileage diesel technology – and details on an investment by the German maker that will add more than 100 jobs to its Detroit Diesel plant.
The president’s visit was intended to help celebrate a $100 million investment by Daimler AG, but the newly re-elected Commander-in-Chief also used the occasion to forcefully speak out against anti-union legislation rapidly working its way through the Michigan legislature.
“We should do everything we can to encourage companies like Daimler to keep investing in American workers,” said the president during his visit to the Detroit Diesel plant. “What we shouldn’t be doing is taking away your rights to bargain for better labor agreements.”
Martin Daum, president and chief executive Daimler Trucks North America, showed the President the German truck maker’s automated manual transmission for diesel engines and the Detroit Diesel division’s new DD15 engine featuring a proprietary turbocharger with a next-generation amplified common rail system, which not only improves performance and fuel economy, but reduces overall weight and complexity.
“The Detroit brand has long been synonymous with power and economy, and the addition of these components to our complete optimized powertrain offerings manufactured at the Detroit brand headquarters will add substantial benefit to our customers’ bottom lines,” Daum said.
Daum explained the addition of the Detroit DT12 automated manual transmission and DD15 proprietary asymmetric turbo to the full line of Detroit brand engines and axles at the facility represents a capital investment of $120 million and will result in the addition of 115 direct jobs to UAW 163, the union local that represent the Detroit Diesel plant.
The president’s visit came a day before a massive Tuesday protest was scheduled to take place in Lansing, the Michigan capital, to protest new anti-union legislation that Gov. Rick Snyder has now said he will sign. It would make Michigan, a traditionally strong base for organized labor, the 24th state to pass so-called “right-to-work” legislation.
The measure would make it illegal to require workers at an organized plant to contribute dues without their consent. On the other hand, it would also require that those who opt out would continue to share in key union-derived benefits in the form of any new raises or other contract terms.
The legislation has been strongly backed by the Koch Brothers, who advocated similar legislation in Wisconsin and who were major financial backers of failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Only a month ago, the Governor indicated such a measure was “not on (his) agenda.” He now defends the proposal as making Michigan more competitive to businesses looking to expand.
But critics note that the new legislation would also severely restrict unions’ ability to organize and to use their money and clout for political purposes.
One of the ironies of the Obama visit to Detroit is that while the Detroit Diesel facility is organized by the United Auto Workers Union, Daimler’s U.S. Mercedes-Benz assembly plant is located in Alabama, another state with anti-union legislation. The UAW has so far been able to organize that facility.
Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.