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UAW lauds Obama for bailout at DNC even as union's clout fades

September 06, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • UAW President Bob King praises Obama for auto industry bailout at Democratic National Convention
UAW President Bob King praises Obama for auto industry bailout at Democratic… (Chicago Tribune )

UAW President Bob King spoke at the Democratic National Convention, extolling the virtues of President Obama and the benefits of the federal auto industry bailout.  Indeed, General Motors alive and Osama bin Laden dead has become the theme of the Obama campaign. 

Since June 2009, the industry has “added a quarter of a million jobs and is thriving once again,” King noted. “These are good, middle-class jobs in glass, plastics and steel—jobs making things for an economy built to last.”

Many of those jobs were at the U.S. plants for auto companies such as Volkswagen, Kia, Nissan, Toyota and other manufacturers that, for the most part, don’t use union employees in their American operations.

Auto information company Edmunds.com has some interesting data that point to the declining importance of the auto union in both the industry and national affairs.

Just 45% of the new cars purchased so far in 2012 were made by GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group, unionized domestic automakers.  Twenty years ago, the Detroit Three built roughly 75% of the new vehicles purchased by Americans.

This is a result of foreign brands building factories in the U.S. and creating a southern “Auto Alley,” a car manufacturing corridor that now rivals Detroit and the industrial Midwest and runs north-south along interstates 75 and 65 from Lexington, Ky., to Montgomery, Ala.

Foreign automakers — including Honda, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen — have placed their U.S. factories in this region because of generous state and local incentives and a workforce famously resistant to unions.

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