Autoworkers Letter to Obama
To: President Barack Obama
From: Concerned Autoworkers, Retirees And Supporters
Re: Auto Industry Crisis & Global Climate Change
Date: July 14, 2009
Dear President Obama,
Your administration has reported that 400,000 jobs in the auto industry have been lost during the economic downturn. Though some jobs have been saved, many more will be lost through the bankruptcy restructuring implemented by the Auto Task Force at Chrysler and GM. Economists are predicting a slow recovery at best and, in any event, the market for autos and trucks will remain diminished for years to come. We in Detroit and in the automobile and manufacturing centers throughout the Midwest are faced with a major crisis for which a comprehensive solution is required.
We believe that the economic crisis is interwoven with an environmental one - that, in the words of NASA scientist Jim Hansen, we face an “irreversible tipping point” if we don’t act swiftly to reduce our carbon footprint and therefore positively impact global climate change. We believe this fact requires rethinking our country’s manufacturing priorities. Instead of laying off workers and devastating working- class communities, we believe the combination of crises demands a bold proposal that can put people back to work and address global climate change. We believe this can be done, and done creatively.
Until the recent fall in vehicle sales, auto use was contributing 20% of all annual U.S.greenhouse gas emissions (more than four tons per person) and 40% of all U.S. oil consumption. Yet of the 90% of Americans who drove to work in 2007, 76% drove alone. Fewer than 5% used public transportation. Eighty percent of the total U.S. population lives in metropolitan areas, with 30% in the cities. Yet few cities outside New York City have an adequate system of public transportation.
Clearly we must turn from an energy-inefficient, auto-centered society to one that increasingly uses mass transit along with energy-efficient vehicles. That means prioritizing buses, light rail, high-speed trains and the tracks they run on. Manufacturing also needs to be geared toward building wind and water turbines as well as solar panels. Instead of attempting to resuscitate automobile companies, we should be building a Transportation and Energy Industry for the 21st century.
Your administration has taken a positive first step by creating two blue ribbon task forces; The White House Task Force on Middle Class Families, called “Promoting American Manufacturing in the 21st Century”, chaired by Vice-President Biden, and the “White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers”, under the leadership of Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis and Larry Summers, your Chief Economic Advisor. You have charged them with the tasks of preparing American industry for the future and supporting “manufacturing communities and workers.”
We welcome these initiatives and urge you to ensure that the size of the ideas being considered match the size of the problems we face. The problems confronting us must be addressed holistically, the leadership must be visionary in its approach and the solutions must be innovative and far-reaching rather than politically expedient crisis management. To that end, we offer the following ideas:
First, because, we the people are now major stockholders in GM and Chrysler, we believe that it would be in the national interest to assume direct ownership of the GM and Chrysler plants that are closed or closing (as interest on our investment) to expedite the retooling and conversion of these plants for the manufacture of the products that we have mentioned above.
We must start now, so that by 2010 we will be well on our way to creating the jobs of tomorrow. We have the facilities, the equipment, the skilled workers to be able to complete this in record time. All we need is the political will to do so.
We know this is not a pipe dream because it was at the start of U.S. involvement in World War II that a massive conversion of existing auto plants for war-time production was completed in just eight months. The obstacles that had to be overcome were not technical, but political. It behooves you and your administration to take on the threat of global climate change - and the dislocations in the automobile industry - with the same sense of urgency and gravity that President Franklin Roosevelt acted upon then.
Additionally, it is our understanding that Chrysler and GM own a large number of patents for green technology. We encourage a thorough review of these patents and believe that any technology that GM and Chrysler own that they have no plans on utilizing in the next three years, be appropriated (again, as interest on investment) and uses found for these technologies.
Your administration is in a position at this moment of great peril, to create a new paradigm - for addressing the US role in industrial manufacturing and taking the lead on combating global warming. We urge that - in this defining moment - you reiterate your pledge that “yes we can!”
Bill Alford, former President, UAW Local 235 (AAM),
Theresa Barber, UAW Local 663, Anderson, IN
Al Benchich, former President, UAW Local 909 (GM),
Edward Blakley, UAW Local 653, Pontiac, MI
Michael Bloom, UAW 549, Mansfield, OH
Tony Browning, UAW Local 1700, Sterling Heights, MI
Brenda Caldwell, retiree, UAW Local 977, Marion, IN.
Metal Fabricating Plant
Allen Cholger, Staff Rep., United Steelworkers,
M. Crosby, UAW Local 2209, Ft. Wayne, IN
Connie DeVol, retiree, UAW Local 2151,
Katie Elsila, UAW Local 1981
Dianne Feeley, UAW Local 235 (AAM), Detroit, MI
Bill FletcherJr., Center for Labor Renewal,
co-author - SolidarityDivided
Lydia Fischer Ghana Goodwin-Dye,
President, UAW Local 909, Warren, MI
David Green, Detroit Democratic Socialists of America,
Frank Hammer, UAW-GM International Representative,
Julie Hurwitz, Attorney
Michael Heaton, C.A.W Local 1285 (Chrysler)
Robert Ingalls, UAW (retired)
Barbara Ingalls, ITU/CWA
Glenn Jackson, UAW Local 5960, Lake Orion, MI
Cheryl Jameson, UAW Local 292, Kokomo, IN
Michael S. Japowicz Sr., UAW Local 594, Pontiac, MI
Florence Katroscik, UAW Local 909 Retiree, Warren, MI
John Kavanaugh, UAW Local 235(AAM) Detroit (retired)
Jack Kiedel, UAW Local 686, Lockport, NY
Thomas Lacas, G.M. Unit, CAW Local 199, St. Catharines,
Sharon McAlpine, UAW Local 235, AAM, Detroit MI,
Lew Moye, UAW Local 110 Retiree, St Louis, MO
Elly Leary, UAW Local 422, Framingham, MA
Robert E. Niethe, UAW Local 686, Lockport, NY,
Hiroko Niethe, UAW Local 686, Lockport, NY, retired
Glenn Brian Reday, GM UAW recently retired, Local 435
Eric V. Reuther, son of UAW pioneers, Victor and Sophie
John S. Reuther, son of UAW Pioneer, Victor G. Reuther
Alexander “Sasha” Reuther, grandson of UAW Pioneer
Victor G. Reuther
Michael Rynca, UAW Local 5960, Pontiac, MI
Joretta Rynca, UAW Local 651, Flint, MI
Paul Schrade, former UAW International Executive
Clay Smith, UAW Local 2166, Shreveport, LA
Jeffrey Stallman, IUE798, GM Moraine (closed Dec.
Sam Stark, UAW retiree
Thomas W. Stephens, Policy Analyst, City of DetroitCity
James Theisen, UAW Local 212, Sterling Heights, MI
Wendy Thompson, former President UAW Local 235
(AAM) Detroit, MI
Carole Travis, former President,UAW Local 719,
LaGrange, IL (retired)
Jerry Tucker, former UAW International Executive
Brett Ward, UAW Local 1700, Sterling Heights, MI
L. M. Wittek, UAW Local 2151, Retired, Coopersville, MI
Robert M. Woods, UAW Local 699, Saginaw, MI
Please send all correspondence to:
c/o Frank Hammer
Detroit, MI 48221
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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an interesting effort. I agree with some of the goals but have some serious issues with some elements of the proposal. Turning the GM and Chrysler facilities into Green manufacturing centers is exactly the right move.
I disagree that reviving American auto companies as auto companies is not a worthwhile goal. We still need private autos in large numbers for many reasons. Increased public transportation is badly needed but will never replace the roles private autos serve. Rural Americans will always need them as the primary means of transportation. More products will require them. Service vehicles and those used in private business will need them. We can revive the auto industry and promote public transport at the same time. We do need “green” autos! Electric and hybrid cars along with alternative fuel vehicles and higher mileage vehicles should be part of reviving the American auto companies for energy, environmental and economic reasons.
Green technology should not be kept from the marketplace by GM and Chrysler! However, it should be sold to American companies, not just appropriated. The terms of the sale should require the buyer to put the technology into productive use within 3 years unless good reason can be demonstrated for a longer time span extension. The proceeds of the green technology sales could help American car companies get back on their feet and eventually help them meet promises made to retirees in terms of healthcare and pensions that they currently are not meeting.