Road Show: Fiat-Chrysler Destroying Good U.S. Jobs
By Jim Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Published by The Detroit News on Jan. 13, 2010
Automakers at the North American International Auto Show will do their best to persuade the public that they’re successfully reinventing themselves.
On display will be vehicles based on batteries, hybrids and other advanced power trains. Fiat-Chrysler will show off Ferraris and Maseratis as well as new trim levels for the Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Nitro and Journey.
What you won’t see are the broken promises behind the spectacle. After receiving a $14 billion bailout gift from U.S. taxpayers, Fiat-Chrysler is destroying good American jobs.
Chrysler is able to participate in this year’s auto show for one reason: the generosity of America’s middle class. In addition to the taxpayer bailout, millions of people who work for a living tightened their belts for Chrysler’s sake to protect jobs – their own job, their family member’s job, their neighbor’s job. The United Auto Workers made painful economic concessions to keep the company afloat. The men and women who deliver new Chryslers to dealers agreed to cuts in pay and benefits up to 17.5 percent.
Now Chrysler wants to save money on the carhaul companies that deliver new vehicles to dealers. The company is demanding cuts that will drive their long-time carhaul carriers into bankruptcy. Thousands of good-paying carhaul jobs will be lost.
The cost to have union drivers haul new cars is only four-tenths of one percent of the vehicle’s total cost. The unemployment and other social costs of wiping out thousands of longstanding jobs far outweighs any potential benefit to the automaker.
Our country’s future depends on preserving and creating good jobs. As unemployment remains in the double digits – 10 percent in December -- here is nothing more important or more urgent than putting Americans to work.
Look at it this way: Consumer spending accounts for 72 percent of the U.S. economy. If people don’t have good jobs, they can’t spend money on consumer goods. If they don’t spend money on consumer goods, the economy shrinks. If the economy shrinks, fewer people have good jobs and spending declines even further.
It isn’t an accident that this terrible recession came at a time when middle-class families’ wages shrunk. Working families actually earned less in inflation-adjusted dollars in 2008 than they did in 1999. A big reason wages fell during the last decade is that there was absolutely no job growth – none whatsoever.
Our economy won’t recover and our middle-class will sink even further unless people hang on to the jobs they’ve got while good, new jobs are created. I don’t mean jobs trading derivatives on Wall Street. I mean jobs making things that we can sell to other countries, like Chryslers, Fords and Chevys.
The American people gave money to Chrysler because they wanted to save Chrysler jobs. My union thinks it’s unconscionable that Chrysler accepted billions of dollars to save jobs – and then turned around and broke its promise by trying to destroy thousands of good jobs for the sake of a few dollars. And it’s not just carhaul jobs being destroyed. Last month, Fiat fired Chrysler’s longtime ad agency, which will mean a loss of 485 Detroit jobs. This Friday night is the auto show’s charity preview. It’s shameful that Fiat-Chrysler took billions in bailout money and is now throwing more Michigan families onto charity lines.
The broken promises don’t end there. Fiat pulled the plug on Chrysler’s electric car program after it was heavily promoted as a reason for needing taxpayer bailout money. Even worse, Chrysler is planning to not pay back $3.7 billion of the bailout that it owes U.S. taxpayers.
The Teamsters have been fighting hard to protect the good carhaul jobs that depend on Chrysler.
That’s what unions do; they protect the interests of their members. But we are also protecting the interests of middle-class Americans who are slowly becoming poorer as the quality of their jobs declines. It’s time for us to climb out of this vicious downward spiral, and it’s time for Chrysler to repay its debt to taxpayers and do its part to get us out of it.
To read archived articles from General President Hoffa, click here.