Was it really just a few weeks ago that the United Auto Workers came to Washington with the Big 3, and promised to work together with management to ensure the companies' viability -- if only Washington would bail them out? Didn't the UAW ultimately agree (if unhappily) to the requirement in the bailout that the companies reduce their labor costs to a level comparable to other automakers in the U.S.? Given the desperation to ensure the survival of the automakers (or not), mustn't the UAW take seriously the requirement to reduce compensation?
More than 250 supporters of the United Auto Workers rallied here Tuesday, one of the many Michigan communities that would be slammed to the core if one of Detroit's Big Three fails...
"Fifteen percent of our city general fund and 15 percent of our city water and sewer budget comes from Chrysler and GM taxes," said Warren Mayor Jim Fouts at the "Stand Up for American Workers and Products Rally" at Warren City Hall. "Any disruption of these funds would most certainly result in layoffs of public safety personnel."
While the failure of Chrysler or GM is the worst-case scenario for Warren and the rest of southeast Michigan, the pay cuts and other drastic concessions demanded by federal loans propping up the automakers also could hurt autoworkers -- and the towns they live in.
Of course the UAW is free to push for a rewrite of the deal that the companies got from the Treasury. The 'requirement' to get costs in line can end as soon as January 20, when Barack Obama is sworn in, and can decide to rewrite the terms.
But the loans to the automakers aren't exactly popular, and they are not sufficient to keep GM and Chrysler afloat for very long. If those companies want to survive, they need more taxpayer money -- even more than the $3.5 billion that Democrats are giving them in the destimulus bill. If it appears to the public that the unions might sign on to an agreement, only to push for a rewrite of the deal after the cash starts flowing, it will make it very hard for Obama to deliver them any more taxpayer money.
That's fine by me of course; I'll be happy to post this article again when the UAW inevitably comes back asking for more money, and pretending to deal in earnest. But Obama and the Democrats better remember the old saying: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.