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General Motors and Chrysler, which took billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees with the promise to preserve U.S. jobs, are instead threatening thousands of union jobs

9 December 2009

DETROIT – General Motors and Chrysler, which took billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees with the promise to preserve U.S. jobs, are instead threatening thousands of union jobs – those of drivers who haul new vehicles on their huge trucks from factory to dealerships – the Teamsters say.
In a telephone press conference, union Auto Transport Division Director Fred Zuckerman explained the two formerly bankrupt car companies are cutting costs by outsourcing the carhauling to non-union, unqualified and ill-equipped private operators. Up to 9,000 union workers could lose their jobs; At least 400 already have.

The union has taken its case to Congress, with a report on the issue, Damage When Delivered. Two lawmakers – Reps. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., and Joe Baca, D-Calif. – promised to raise a fuss. But Clay admitted there was nothing they could do legislatively to reverse the automakers’ actions.

“All you can do is bring this deal to the attention of the Obama administration and the Treasury Department,” which administers the loans to GM and Chrysler, now Fiat-Chrysler, said Clay. “We’ll let them know we’re shining a light on this. It is outrageous that after taking billions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers, GM and Fiat-Chrysler would try to destroy good-paying American jobs that offer a living wage with decent benefits.”

The carhaul drivers, covered by contracts between the Teamsters and Detroit’s not-so-big-anymore three automakers, haul new cars from factories around the country to dealerships. With a typical car costing more than $20,000 – and with a car carrier costing between $180,000 and $250,000 – a lot of money is riding with those drivers.

The two auto firms, however, are laying off Teamster drivers and hiring “independent contractors” who have little training and take fewer safety precautions – such as using straps rather than chains – to secure cars on the rigs, said Zuckerman and carhaul driver Bud Palmer, of Jessup, Md., in the D.C. suburbs.

“I’ve talked to” the independent “drivers who had heavy-duty trucks pickups held on the carhaulers by two straps, not by four chains,” Palmer said. “I was trained for a month” in how to properly secure a vehicle on the big car carriers, he added. “At Chrysler they’re training these guys for a week before sending them out on the road.” To try to keep his job, Palmer added, he took a 12% pay cut. It hasn’t worked.

The car companies’ practice leaves the new cars open to hidden damage, especially in their undercarriages, said consumer auto safety activist Rosemary Shahan. And when dealers sell the damaged cars to consumers, the car companies refuse to honor repair warranties, she added.

This article was written by Press Associates, Inc., news service. Used by permission.

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