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Union chief vows no concessions for Big 3

By Mark Williams
Associated Press / November 16, 2008
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Even as Detroit's Big Three teeter on collapse, United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger said yesterday that workers will not make any more concessions and that getting the automakers back on their feet means figuring out a way to turn around the slumping economy.

"The focus has to be on the economy as a whole as opposed to a UAW contract," Gettelfinger told reporters on a conference call, noting the labor costs now make up 8 percent to 10 percent of the cost of a vehicle.

"We have made dramatic, dramatic changes and the UAW was applauded for that," he said.

Instead, Gettelfinger attributed the problems the auto industry is suffering to things beyond its control - the housing slump, the credit crunch that has made financing a vehicle tough, and the 1.2 million jobs that have been lost in the past year.

Gettelfinger called on Congress to act quickly on a bailout plan for the auto industry, saying action is necessary before President-elect Barack Obama takes office in January.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that the House would provide aid to the ailing automakers, requiring that the industry meet new fuel-efficiency standards, produce advanced vehicles. and restructure "to ensure their long-term economic viability."

Pelosi, a California Democrat, did not disclose the amount of funding House leaders intend to seek for the industry. Automakers have been seeking $25 billion in loans to stabilize their sinking companies. But she said the funding should come from the $700 billion financial bailout approved by Congress in October.

"A restructured, competitive American automobile industry will continue to play a crucial role in our national economy and in the global marketplace," Pelosi said in a statement.

The move sets up a conflict with the White House, which has opposed using the bailout funds to help General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler LLC.

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