Unions Rail against Senate GOP

Labor unions railed against Senate Republicans today after the proposed auto bailout's failure last night in the upper chamber, accusing the GOP of scapegoating autoworkers in the name of conservative ideology.

United Auto Workers (UAW) President Ron Gettelfinger began the salvo this morning at a news conference on the vote.

"Quite frankly, we wondered if we were being set up," Gettelfinger said, adding that discussions over UAW wages were "just simply subterfuge on the part of the minority in the Republican Party who wanted to tear down any agreement that we come up with."

Gettelfinger accused the Senate GOP caucus of treating unions unfairly by demanding wage cuts as part of legislative negotiations, while leaving the Big Three's corporate fates up to an executive-appointed "car czar." Gettelfinger pointed to a February, 2007 Detroit Free Press story claiming American employees of foreign automakers earn higher wages on average than UAW members.

Gettelfinger also pointed to an anonymous GOP memo--obtained by UAW from a source, he said--urging Senate GOP offices to paint the bailout as an election payback from Democrats to unions. Labor unions poured millions of dollars into Democrats' campaigns this election season.

The AFL-CIO issued its own statement blasting Senate Republicans early this afternoon.

"A handful of Republican senators were so determined to cut workers' living standards and scapegoat the auto workers union that they were willing to block the bipartisan proposal for a bridge loan to the American auto industry and play Russian roulette with our economy," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said. "That is outrageous. This group of minority senators failed to act as stewards of the American public."

"Misinformation about auto workers' livelihoods has been spread throughout this debate," Sweeney said, adding that "nothing would satisfy the ideologically motivated Republican senators" in last night's Senate vote.

Meanwhile Change to Win, the nation's second-largest federation of unions, compared Senate Republicans to former President Herbert Hoover.

"Workers and their unions have been the focus of the Republican attack. Their motivation could not be more obvious, or their agenda more wrongheaded. They simply want to eliminate unions, and are using the proposed government-supported legislation for the auto industry to further their agenda," Change to Win Executive Director Chris Chafe said this afternoon in a statement released by the organization.

"The ghost of Herbert Hoover must be whispering in the ears of the Republican minority," Chafe said. "Hoover took a Wall Street collapse and turned it into a national calamity that lasted more than a decade. Today

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