UAW president: Romney ‘out of touch’ with workers

April 24, 2012
UAW president: Romney ‘out of touch’ with workers
By DAVID SHEPARDSON / Detroit News Washington Bureau
Washington— United Auto Workers President Bob King said Monday that GOP front-runner Mitt Romney is “out of touch” with workers after a recent comment by the former Massachusetts governor about his dad’s decision to close a large auto plant in Detroit in the 1950s.

King and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland participated in a conference call with the Obama re-election campaign to discuss the bid’s efforts to tout the auto industry revival in the Buckeye State.

“The comments about plant closings to me show how out of touch Mitt Romney is with working people,” King said, calling them “cavalier.”

King said that in recent years there has been “tremendous suffering across America” in the face of plant closings.

The conference call came as the Obama campaign on Monday launched a “Made in Ohio” tour, visiting cities like Perrysburg, Akron, and Warren to emphasize the importance of auto jobs in the state.

Last month, Romney recounted the decision of his father, George Romney, then CEO of American Motors, to close the company’s Hudson plant on Detroit’s east side and shift the work to the company’s Kenosha, Wis., plant. The move resulted in the layoff of about 4,300 workers.

“Now, later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign,” Romney said.

Romney has been harshly critical of the UAW — contending that the union got “more than their fair share” during bankruptcy reorganizations of General Motors and Chrysler.

King said the auto industry in Ohio has added about 15,000 jobs since 2009 — and said 80 out of 88 Ohio counties have an auto-related company.

“No matter how much Mitt Romney tries to Etch-a-Sketch his way out of wanting the auto industry to go bankrupt, there was not a single financial institution willing to give them (the) loan they needed to restructure,” King said, saying the collapse of GM and Chrysler would have led to a “deep depression” in the U.S.

Romney has said he would not have let GM and Chrysler fail, but would have insisted on an immediate bankruptcy in 2008, something President George W. Bush didn’t think was possible, when he granted them $17.4 billion in emergency loans.

The Romney campaign declined to comment on King’s comments. But it emailed a statement from Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, a supporter.

“Remarkably, President Obama’s allies have attempted to justify his $80 billion auto bailout. President Obama’s mismanagement of the process cost the American taxpayers $23 billion,” Turner said. “Governor Romney will make decisions based on what’s best for the economy and for American workers, not based on political favoritism and backroom deals.”

Last month, the Obama campaign released a report on Ohio’s role in the auto industry, noting that 120,000 Ohio residents are directly employed by motor vehicle and parts companies and 400,000 who work somewhere in the auto industry supply chain.

That’s second only to Michigan. Eight Ohio plants produced over 1.1 million cars and trucks in 2010.

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