Tuesday, March 31, 2009
When lawmakers demanded strict conditions placed on the Big Three Automakers before their request for a bridge loan was approved, many said it was a clear case of Washington elites attacking people who shower after work as opposed to before work.
Now, assembly line autoworkers are reacting with skepticism and anger to the Obama administration’s tough tactics, which stoked long-simmering feelings that the people who put the country in cars and trucks get treated differently than the wizards of Wall Street.
According to Brian Fredline, president of UAW Local 602 at a plant near Lansing:
“It’s the age-old Wall Street vs. Main Street smackdown again. You have all kinds of funding available to banks that are apparently too big to fail, but they’re also too big to be responsible. But when it comes to auto manufacturing and middle-class jobs, people don’t matter on Wall Street, there are certainly different standards that we have to meet, higher standards than the financials. That is a double standard that exists and it’s unfair.”
President Obama said the administration will offer GM “adequate working capital” during the next 60 days to produce an acceptable reorganization plan. The government gave Chrysler LLC 30 days to overcome hurdles to a merger with Fiat SpA, the Italian automaker.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called Obama’s moves “a bit of tough love,” yet recognized a disconnect between the financial and auto industries:
“I do think that there has been a different look at those who manufacture than those who make money by flipping paper and I’m hopeful that the financial industry gets as tough a scrutiny as the auto industry has.”
However, the characterization of the nation’s autoworkers needing “tough love” from this president is patronizing. It reinforces the perception that Wall Street is treated differently than Detroit. Why wasn’t AIG and Citi Group required to restructure their business model as a condition to drink from the TARP trough?