The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 02, 2012

‘I'll fight for right-to-work laws’ Romney takes aim at unions during Michigan campaign

By The Building Tradesman



GRAND RAPIDS – Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney came to Michigan the day after Valentine’s Day, but he wasn’t showing any love for the state’s union members.

Romney received national headlines as he kicked off his Michigan campaign, which held its primary Feb. 28 and has become a key state in the GOP election process. The outcome of the election wasn’t known at our press time.

Instead of laying out an optimistic plan for the nation’s future in Michigan, Romney went negative, and unions and President Obama were his primary targets. “In the 18 minutes he spoke to supporters here,” said MIRS News Service, “Romney spent 12 on red meat rhetoric against Obama and organized labor. The other six minutes were spent making local references to county fairs and pointing out people he went to high school with.”

Romney came out swinging at unions and their “bosses,” and doubled down on his theory that General Motors and Chrysler would have been better off guiding their financial futures through a managed bankruptcy, rather than with an infusion of government cash.

“There’s something else that’s been very frustrating,” Romney said at a rally in suburban Kentwood.  “I call it crony capitalism. And that’s the path that he (President Obama) has taken. He’s gotten hundreds of millions of dollars from labor bosses for his campaign. And so he’s paying them back in every way he knows how. One way of course was giving General Motors and Chrysler to the UAW. I saw that (UAW President) Bob King said that I don’t care about the auto industry. I’m sorry Mr. King, I care very deeply about the auto industry. I want to make sure we have good jobs not just for a few weeks but for many, many years. I want Michigan to come back in a big way.

“I’ve taken on union bosses before and I’m happy to take them on again, because I happen to believe that you can protect the interests of the American taxpayers and protect a great industry like automobiles without having to give into the UAW and I sure won’t.”

The impetus for the UAW’s King to remark that Romney doesn’t care about the auto industry came in the form of an article written by the former Massachusetts governor. Just two weeks before Obama was elected president in 2008, an op-ed piece penned by Romney appeared in the New York Times under the headline, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” He urged a managed bankruptcy for General Motors and Chrysler that would allow the financially moribund auto companies to restructure, but with the use of private equity dollars – not federal money.

There is wide agreement among economists that with the ongoing financial chaos at the time on Wall Street, Romney’s plan to utilize private equity money to restructure the automakers was nearly impossible, because the investment cash was simply not available in 2008-2009.

President Bush and then President Obama took the course of government intervention, making $81 billion in federal loans available to GM and Chrysler. Many economists said if the companies were allowed to go bankrupt, Ford Motor Co. would likely have followed, and the vast domestic auto supplier network would likely have gone down with them, pushing the entire U.S. economy into a depression. All three domestic automakers enjoyed profitable years in 2011 – for GM, a record profit.

Romney, ignoring the saving of thousands of jobs made possible by the federal loans – as well as the saving of Michigan’s economy for years to come – blasted what he called the “bailout” of the UAW, which along with other unions he said has supported Obama with big contributions. "It shouldn't come as a surprise that the president has received hundreds of millions from unions, and he's been doing their bidding ever since,” Romney told 11 business owners before the Kentwood rally (source: politicswires.com).

In other references to organized labor:

  • Romney continued to express support for Right to Work legislation and cutting the corporate tax rate as part of his first initiatives if elected. “Unions ask for too much and you end up killing the company,” Romney said. (Source Mlive, Feb. 16).
  • “I'll fight for right-to-work laws, and I'm going to make sure we don't force unions on people," he said in Michigan (Source: Miami Herald, Feb. 16).
  • “Between the rally speech and previous meeting with business owners, Romney touted his support of right-to-work legislation, opposition to union dues going to political activity and support for ending a practice of federal contract work going to union labor.” (Source: The Detroit News, Feb.16).
  • And this Romney quote came in a response during a South Carolina voter question-and-answer session in January: “I think what you’re seeing with the president is extra-constitutional action, where he is taking his friends and putting them in positions of power. I think perhaps the most egregious example of that is what has happened with the National Labor Relations Board.  He (President Obama) is basically paying back organized union labor, by taking union stooges and putting them in the National Labor Relations Board so they will do his bidding and follow his policies.”