Apr 20, 2009
April 30 – the deadline Obama gave Chrysler workers – looms like a date with the executioner. Not far behind it is May 30, when GM workers face the same knife.
In theory, Obama, like Bush before him, was demanding that the auto companies change the way that they do business, that they “restructure,” and that all “stakeholders” make sacrifices.
But behind the rhetoric of “shared sacrifice” and “hard choices” by the companies stands this reality: the auto workers, and essentially only them, are the ones being asked to sacrifice.
The bondholders – which are the biggest banks in the country, the ones that already got government bailouts – will be given warrants allowing them to tap into the auto companies’ profit stream year after year. GM’s CEO Wagoner, who supposedly was booted out, left with 23 million dollars and some change, plus a pension of $68,900 a year. Cerberus, which already drained billions out of Chrysler, will be allowed to walk away, free from all the debts it ran up, putting them on Chrysler’s back.
But auto workers are being asked for sacrifices that effectively will cut their pay and benefits in half, that will eliminate part of their medical coverage. Auto retirees are threatened with possible losses in their pensions and the sure loss of their medical coverage in a few years.
This scam is being pushed through by Obama’s threat to force the companies into bankruptcy (on April 30 for Chrysler and May 30 for GM) if the workers don’t give up even more than they’ve already ceded back to the companies over the past four years.
“It will require unions and workers who have already made extraordinarily painful concessions to make even more,” Obama dared to say. A week later he added: “I cannot pretend there isn’t more difficulty to come. But I am confident that if we all do our part, then this restructuring as painful as it will be, will mark not an end, but a new beginning.”
Which “we” is he talking about, this millionaire politician who pretends that “we all” have sacrifices to make?
The only sacrifices being demanded are from the workers – and not just from auto workers, but from every worker in this country.
Have no illusions about that. If auto workers go down, every worker will come under attack. Many already have been attacked, of course. But it will get worse. If auto wages are driven down from $29 an hour to $14 an hour, then people today making $14 will be driven down to minimum wage. If auto workers see their health care cut down to minimum coverage, those who have minimum coverage will have none.
And leave no doubt about it – the auto workers’ relatively complete health care coverage is in the middle of the bulls-eye. Obama’s chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, has said, and repeated and repeated again that the auto companies must “get rid of a health care cost structure that’s outdated.” (On “Face the Nation,” March 1, for example.) In other words, it’s “outdated” that a worker should get health care that’s more or less adequate – not as good as Congress gets, and certainly not what a millionaire former investment banker like Emanuel gets, but more or less adequate. That idea, according to Obama’s chief, is “outdated.”
No, what’s outdated is this idea that the wealthy should get more and more, while the workers let themselves be pushed down into the mud.
There is no reason for auto workers – or for any other worker – to make a single sacrifice.
Workers didn’t wreck the auto companies. The capitalists who own all those companies did.
Workers didn’t wreck the economy speculating – GMAC did, driving up housing prices. Workers didn’t drain auto company profits into convoluted financial schemes – Cerberus did. Workers didn’t hide money in offshore banks – GM did. Workers didn’t give out more money to investors than the companies made – Ford and GM did. The capitalist class did. Make them pay!
For us – not one more sacrifice. Not one more concession. Not from auto workers, not from any worker.