LaTourette, Kucinich ask WH to take "time out" on Chrysler/GM
U.S. Reps. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH) and Dennis Kucinich have asked the President to have its Auto Task Force stop taking actions that are harmful to American auto workers, auto dealers and the states and communities impacted by plant and dealership closings.
LaTourette, along with 35 other members of Congress from both parties, signed a letter authored by LaTourette and delivered to the White House today. They, along with the National Automobile Dealers Association, held a press conference in Washington this afternoon and also met with a member of the Auto Task force afterwards. Additional meetings with the Task Force are planned, LaTourette said. He said he was joined at the meeting by U.S. Rep. David Conyers (D-MI), a powerful member of Congress whose state has been devastated by automotive job losses.
LaTourette said the Administration and its free-wheeling Auto Task Force have intentionally or unintentionally sanctioned a "new" Chrysler plan that will mean job cuts for 9,000 Chrysler workers, and the loss of 789 dealerships, which could translate to more than 100,000 additional job losses. In addition, it is reported that GM will also go into an Administration-guided bankruptcy, which could cause the loss of at least another 100,000 dealership jobs nationwide and the closure of 14 GM plants.
"The White House Auto Task Force seems to be pursuing policies that export the manufacturing base of the American economy. Our economic strength and our national security are dependent on the automobile, steel, aerospace and shipping industries. We must protect and strengthen these vital industries," said Rep. Kucinich
LaTourette said many people feel confused or misled by the President's announcement on April 30 that the bankruptcy would "not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or live in communities that depend on it." Just hours after that statement, bankruptcy papers were filed in New York, and buried deep within them were the names of eight Chrysler plants that would close, including the Twinsburg plant. UAW workers across the nation agreed to steep concessions to save their jobs just days before the bankruptcy filing, including those who had no idea they were voting to close their plant and lose their jobs.
"I do not believe the President's aides or task force gave him good or complete advice on this," LaTourette said. "The Chrysler CEO has practically gone on an apology tour after telling governors, mayors and members of Congress their plants would be fine just hours before the bankruptcy filing. What has happened is simply wrong."
While the press conference was being held, Ed Montgomery from the White House auto team was in Twinsburg outlining a new initiative to provide $50 million nationwide for auto worker retraining in green jobs. LaTourette said the $50 million is shockingly low and can go to any state, not just areas with plant closings. He said he doubts there are that many green jobs in NE Ohio.
"I'm afraid the only green jobs that will be available will be cutting the lawns of Wall Street bigwigs," LaTourette said.
LaTourette said he believes the Task Force is moving at warp speed and has been careless. He is very troubled by the lack of transparency from the White House in the Chrysler deal, and the shutting out of Congress. He believes if the Administration knew 8 plants and 789 dealerships were slated to get the axe they had a responsibility to be honest, not couch the results with rosy rhetoric about saving 30,000 Chrysler jobs, and neglecting to mention what was clearly known in the White House.
"Dodge pioneered the Stealth car, and I fear that's been the motto in this process," said LaTourette.
LaTourette said he will plead with the Administration to halt more decisions before it's too late.
Here is the text of the letter to President Obama, followed by a list of signatures:
May 21, 2009
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our concern over events that have occurred and will soon occur in the U.S. Automobile Industry. We are grateful to you and your Administration for the leadership demonstrated. However, decisions being made by the Auto Task Force and in the bankruptcy proceedings in New York are more than troubling.
In your announcement on Chrysler on April 30, 2009 you indicated that: "It will not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or live in communities that depend on it."
While we know that was your intention, events following your announcement have made that impossible.
1.) Members of the UAW voted on April 28-29 to ratify a contract agreeing to significant concessions. Sadly, approximately 9000 auto workers at 8 Chrysler facilities went to vote on that contract without knowing that their jobs would be terminated. For example, 88% of the members of Local 122 in Twinsburg, Ohio voted on April 29th for the agreement, celebrated your announcement on April 30th, and discovered for the first time that their plant would be shuttered on May 1st;
2.) As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, those 9000 workers have been given to only May 26th to determine if they want to accept a buy out package terminating all rights of their employment;
3.) On May 4th in those bankruptcy proceedings, Robert Manzo of Capstone, Chrysler's consultant, testified that the Auto Task Force, after first suggesting that Chrysler not be permitted to spend any funds on advertising, begrudgingly agreed to permit them to spend half of their advertising budget;
4.) In those same proceedings, 789 Chrysler dealerships have been slated for closure. It is anticipated that up to 2300 GM dealerships will soon receive the same news. As you know an average of 60 people work in each dealership in the U.S. The result of direct job losses, without any factoring in of the supply chain, will approach 150,000.
As you will recall in 1979, the Carter Administration, when faced with the pending insolvency of Chrysler, worked with the Congress to create the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act of 1979. That legislation recognized the Congress' Constitutional responsibility to receive and refer observances from all stakeholders. The 1979 legislation received broad bipartisan support and public acceptance because decisions were thoughtfully made by the nation's elected leadership rather than by a non-elected task force.
While we are mindful that time is of the essence, we are respectfully requesting that you return the Auto Task Force to its important advisory role to you and your Administration, but also return the Congress' Constitutional legislative prerogatives before it further disrupts the lives of people who work at Chrysler or live in communities that depend on it.
This is a list of members who signed the letter: LaTourette, Kucinich, Don Young (R-AK); Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL); Pat Tiberi (R-OH); Tom Latham (R-IA; Glenn Thompson (R-PA); Mike Simpson (R-ID); Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ); Brett Guthrie (R-KY); Tom Cole (R-OK); Thad McCotter (R-MI); Judy Biggert (R-IL); Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO); Adrian Smith (R-NE); Jim Gerlach (R-PA): Paul Ryan (R-WI); Bob Latta (R-OH); Kenny Marchant (R-TX); John Duncan (R-TN); Lee Terry (R-NE); George Radanovich (R-CA); Neil Abercrombie (D-HI); Louie Gohmert (R-TX); Dennis Rahberg (R-MT); Geoff Davis (R-KY) Greg Walden (R-OR); Mike Pence (R-IN); John Conyers (D-MI); Mike Turner (R-OH); Mike Michaud (D-ME) Pete Sessions (R-TX); Dan Burton (R-IN); Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV); Devin Nunes (R-CA); and Pete Visclosky (D-IN).