Friday, December 12, 2008

Broken Down

Every week it seems I start this email telling you how frustrating the week has been. However frustrating these hearings and negotiations are in Washington, they pale in comparison to the insecurity, fear and anxiety being felt by millions of workers who are either standing in the unemployment line, or looking for a pink slip with every paycheck. So, while we shake our heads and stomp our feet in the Capitol, our Congressional troubles are trivial compared to the peril faced by far too many we serve.

The front page photo in the Kansas City Star is a good reminder of just what is at stake right now. In case you missed it, it features three material supervisors at the GM Fairfax plant watching C-SPAN yesterday, on their lunch break, as the Senate debated the auto rescue package. Three men whose families woke up to the news this morning that the Senate had failed to act on the proposal supported by the President and passed by the House.

The deal in the Senate broke down because some wanted the unions to agree to cut the salaries of the three men on the front page of the Star today and 7,200 of their fellow workers who call our community home.

At a time when the American worker is struggling, lay-offs are announced daily and the government is contemplating another stimulus package to encourage people to spend and boost the economy, cutting wages does not make much sense to me.

I am not saying that the auto rescue package was perfect — far from it. However, I fear that those who have never liked unions and never supported union workers used this dire moment for the auto makers to make a point while playing Russian roulette with the livelihoods of millions of families.

General Motors has testified that without a bridge loan they may not make it the rest of the year. It seems some Members of Congress are willing to see if their projections are correct. I am not. Economists from the left, right and center agree that our economy cannot sustain the damage a failed auto industry would yield.

Proof of the impact on our local economy came today. General Motors announced it would idle the Fairfax plant until February, one of 14 plants closed down. For us, that means 2,640 employees who will not clock in for nearly two months.

Not passing a short-term aid package was reckless and puts 3 million workers and our entire fragile economy at risk.

We are now asking the President to take emergency action to protect the economy. It is within his power and indications are that he understands the gravity of a failing auto industry. The President should direct Secretary Paulson to use the Troubled Assets Relief Program or other means at his disposal to provide short-term funding to the auto industry, so that it can restructure and resurrect itself into the backbone of our nation's industrial base once again.