Obama and the UAW: How is any of this “fair”?
Barack Obama and the left love to use the word “fairness” like a cudgel. But very little that they espouse has anything to do with actual fairness. For something to be fair, it must be “in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate; just.” Treating people unequally under the laws is not “fair,” as it is properly defined.
Progressive taxation is not “fair.” Making one person work for something that he doesn’t get to keep and giving that thing to someone else who didn’t work for it is not “fair.” You may want to do it for this reason or that, but that doesn’t make it a fair act, if “fairness” is to have any stable meaning. And certainly, certain persons in government taking taxpayer money and giving it to unions, who in turn support those same persons in elections, is both unfair and sleazy.
The Obama administration has said auto makers and their suppliers added 200,000 jobs since the bailout and plan to add more. The White House sees it as vindication for its decision to bail out GM and Chrysler in 2009 and usher them through bankruptcy court. Without a rescue, the administration has said, Chrysler and GM would have collapsed, taking hundreds of suppliers with them and wiping out hundreds of thousands of jobs.
“President Obama was right, and they were dead wrong,” Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd of 500 cheering factory workers last month in Toledo, Ohio, referring to Republican critics of the $80 billion auto rescue.
Those critics, meanwhile, see the government-led bailouts and bankruptcies as government overreach and payback to the UAW, a longtime Democratic ally, which received equity stakes in both companies.
President Obama “got hundreds of millions of dollars from labor bosses for his campaign, and so he’s paying them back in every way he knows how,” Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney said at a campaign stop in Michigan. “One way, of course, was giving General Motors and Chrysler to the UAW.”
In the case of Chrysler, the UAW was given a 55% stake in the company in exchange for forgiving $6 billion in debt to the union’s health-care trust fund. “The UAW ended up with a large equity stake because people thought it wouldn’t be worth anything,” the task force’s leader, financier Steven Rattner, said in a recent interview.
The UAW had the upper hand in the negotiations, and were given a better deal than other stakeholders, because of their important political connection to members of government (Obama and the Democrats). They even got a better deal than other unions:
But here in Moraine, the GM assembly plant closed for good. Despite being one of GM’s most productive and cooperative factories, Moraine was closed following the company’s 2007 labor pact with the United Auto Workers union. Under a deal struck by the UAW during GM’s bankruptcy two years later, Moraine’s 2,500 laid-off workers were barred from transferring to other plants, locking them out of the industry’s rebound.
The trouble with Moraine: Its workers weren’t in the UAW.
“We did everything we could to keep that plant open and keep our jobs,” said Mitchell Wood, a 44-year-old father of two who used to attach tailgates onto sport-utility vehicles at Moraine. “But in the end, we didn’t have a chance, not being in the UAW.”
The plight of Moraine workers highlights the extraordinary role played by the UAW during the near-collapses and bankruptcy reorganizations of GM and Chrysler Group LLC. That role remains a political flash point today. Democrats have cast President Barack Obama and the UAW as saviors of America’s auto industry. Republicans call the help a taxpayer-funded giveaway to the president’s union allies.
What is clear is that the United Auto Workers—though weakened by decades of attrition and the rise of a nonunion auto workforce—was still powerful enough to play a big role in picking winners and losers and in shaping the industry that emerged from that critical period.
This was made possible by government’s involvement. Without government arranging different outcomes and treating groups and individuals differently, there might be unequal outcomes at times, but at least the situation would be operating in accordance with a known set of rules or standards being applied equally and justly to all people. Nothing about this cycle of TAXPAYER MONEY for POWER for VOTES for MORE TAXPAYER MONEY is in any way “fair.”
Mitt Romney has been hitting the issue of fairness on the stump already, and he would be wise to continue doing so. He should even expand the argument. The left has done violence to the definitions of many words. It’s time to take back the word “fairness” and define it properly once again.