Late last night, Senate Republicans blocked a deal brokered by the White House and the Democratic leadership to extend a $15 billion loan to General Motors and Chrysler. Senators were “deadlocked over Republican demands for steep cuts in pay and benefits by the United Automobile Workers union in 2009.” Republicans immediately blamed unions. “It sounds like the U.A.W. blew it up,” said Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, “[L]abor has got to give. If they want a bill they can get one.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) — who introduced the pay-cut amendment that sank the agreement — took to the morning shows today to blame the UAW for supposedly refusing to make concessions and allowing “these companies to fall into peril”:
As I wake up this morning, knowing the gravity of where we were, the fact that they were willing to make no concessions — zero — and let these companies fall into peril as they are now, to me, as I wake up today, it’s pretty surreal actually.
Watch a compilation of conservatives pointing the finger at unions:
It’s clear that the Senate Republicans’ main priority was union busting. A memo sent among Senate Republican staffers called for Republicans to “stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor.” Speaking at a press conference this morning, UAW president Ron Gettelfinger said the Republicans made it “very clear” that “there are those who would do away with” unions altogether.
Gettelfinger emphasized that the myth that UAW workers are paid drastically more than employees of foreign auto makers is “simply subterfuge.” The Detroit Free Press reported in 2007 that the union was “losing its edge in pay” compared with non-unionized workers for foreign companies. (He also reminded conservatives that the union had already accepted broad concessions.)
More importantly, Gettelfinger correctly identified Senate Republicans’ main goal: to destroy unions and blame the UAW for the auto industry failure:
It’s just easy to take the union and blame us for everything. And as you can see, some of those in the Senate who were quick to scuttle this plan want to say that it’s the fault of the UAW. All they want to do is say, wait a minute, workers shouldn’t have a voice in their workplace. … It’s very clear that there are those who would do away with [unions] tonight.
He noted that “the right wing in this country has painted the word ‘union’ to be a very negative word.” Watch portions of his comments this morning:
As Rachel Maddow said last night, “Senate republicans are on an ideologically driven union-busting adventure,” “the American economy as a whole be darned.”
On a conference call with conservative bloggers this morning, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said the failure to pass a rescue plan last night “solely lies with UAW.”
,On the Glenn Beck radio show today, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) attacked the UAW, claiming it “would not negotiate in good faith” and had destroyed the auto companies by “push[ing] their back against the wall.” He also called the rescue package a bailout of the unions. Listen to his comments: