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“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” read the headline of Mitt Romney’s now infamous op-ed from 2008 on the American Automotive Industry.  Mitt Romney, current Republican Presidential Nominee, believed that bail outs in 2008 would lead to the eventual demise of the American Auto Industry, as the major auto makers would be propped up by public money, not market forces.

Some claim that the bail outs saved jobs, encouraged growth and a rebound in the auto industry.  That is very likely.  However, while the headline that is endlessly quoted in the media, makes it appear Romney doesn’t cares at all for the average auto worker, reading the article gave me a different perception.  It seemed that he was concerned for the auto worker, although he doesn’t explicitly state it. In the article, he states that not bailing out the auto industry would allow it to actually flourish, become more competitive, sustainable and put an end to the disastrous cycles of job losses which are too common in the auto industry.  It was these points about sustainability, ending the job losses (caveat: the article does not mention creating more jobs, or keeping the current amount of workers, it just mentioned ending job losses, which could mean decimating the number of workers and being able to sustain those still employed in the auto industry) and making sure that the auto industry still exists in the years ahead, which gives a different frame Mr. Romney’s argument. While this was not explicitly states,  it almost seems that he believes not bailing out American auto makers with public funds could actually help auto workers.  It could bring stability and success to these organizations, and as a result, could possibly lead to better, more secure jobs. However, there could be very few of these jobs in Romney’s vision for a post bankrupt Detroit.

If Detroit did go bankrupt 4 years ago, it is possible that what emerged would have been a more competitive auto industry with a sobering view of economic conditions.  Unrealistic labour compensation and benefits would be eliminated.  People would (and should) be fairly (and hopefully generously) compensated for their work in such a massive industry.  However, a post bankruptcy auto industry, wised up to economic reality of a bankruptcy, would be much more likely to be upfront and offer employees sustainable compensation and benefits, including a pension that can be funded without worry.  If workers were offered honest compensation and benefit packages, based on what was actually feasible and sustainable, it would prevent many issues and turmoil for auto workers in the years ahead.  Consider pensions, for instance.  These are often a very contentious issue between organized labour and business.  No one wants to hear that their pension is in jeopardy in their final working years, or even after they have retired.  If workers in a post bankrupt Detroit were offered a realistic and sustainable pension, then they would be able to plan their retirement around this, and would be saved a lot of stress and anxiety in what are supposed to be leisurely years of retirement. Pensions are just one issue, there are endless other possibilities.

Of course, this is just one perception, based solely on the words of the article.  Only Mr. Romney truly knows what Mitt Romney thinks about auto workers and to a larger extent, the average manufacturing labourer.

Here’s the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/opinion/19romney.html

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Electro-Motive employees in London, ON, have voted 95% in favour of accepting the severance package negotiated between the CAW and Caterpillar.  The deal does seem generous, including things such as 3 weeks of pay for each year unionized workers have been employed at Electro-Motive.  It is not, however, a long term solution or very comforting to the now unemployed workers and their families.

Where some have lost others, in another country, have gained.  As Electro-Motive workers were voting on their severance package and thinking of what to do next, Caterpillar held a job fair in Indiana, to hire workers for the plant which will replace the shuttered one in London, ON.  Indiana’s state legislature recently passed anti-union legislation.  There’s nothing wrong with Caterpillar wanting to lower costs, but there is definitely something wrong with showing complete contempt and disregard for your employees (especially long term ones) and the community in which you exist.  Based on the prominence of the Electro-Motive labour dispute and the resulting shutting down of the plant in the news, this plant was clearly an important fixture in the community.  While it is always unfortunate when business shut down, it is sometimes needed for a firm to stay competitive.  When a major employer, with ties to its community shuts down, it is something entirely different.  Businesses like this need to recognize their importance in communities and consider all stake holders in their firm, not just the shareholders.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/02/23/wdr-electro-motive-severance-vote.html

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/18/british-columbia-mla-jagrup-brar-tries-living-on-welfare-for-a-month/

The above link is a story from the National Post.  B.C. MLA Jagrup Brar attempted to live off of just $610 for one month.  He didn’t really seem to enjoy himself.  Moral of the story:  Get a job.

Irony Alert: After he gave up his MLA salary and benefits for one month, his new and only source of revenue for the month was welfare.  The same people payed his salary both before and during the challenge.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/01/18/british-columbia-mla-jagrup-brar-tries-living-on-welfare-for-a-month/

The above link is a story from the National Post.  B.C. MLA Jagrup Brar attempted to live off of just $610 for one month.  He didn’t really seem to enjoy himself.  Moral of the story:  Get a job.

Irony Alert: After he gave up his MLA salary and benefits for one month, his new and only source of revenue for the month was welfare.  The same people payed his salary both before and during the challenge.