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Forget Emissions, This Is a Fight Over Labor

Jul 31, 2020
Well, I guess we saw this coming.
Senate Republicans last night killed efforts to grant Detroit’s automakers a $14 billion lifeline to prevent bankruptcies after compromise negotiations broke down over a provision to cut workers’ wages.
Very generally, Republicans wanted the Big Three’s union workers to cut their salary and benefit packages down to the size of those earned by the domestic employees of Japan’s automakers. According to a great analysisof the pay differential in The New York Times this week, the Big Three workers earn, on average, $55 per hour in salary and benefits, while those working for the Japanese companies pull in roughly $45. If the Republicans had their way, that would amount to a cut of about $20,000 per year in annual salary and benefits (health care and pensions) for Big Three workers.
Democrats had already caved to two White House demands: (1) That the $14 billion come froma $25 billion fund set aside to retool Detroit’s factories, and (2) To strip language that would have forcedthe Big Three to drop lawsuits against states trying to tighten tailpipe emission standards.
Evidently, they drew the line at cutting workers’ wages.
As Laura pointed outthis morning, the White House has had the power to step in and help Detroit using a chunk of the $700 billion bailout passed earlier in the year to stabilize Wall Street’s banks. Treasury Sec. Henry M. Paulson Jr. has resisted that strategy arguing that such a move would buck congressional intent (even as Congress is screaming from the rafters for some of the cash to go to the automakers). The money, Paulson contends, was intended to prop up the financial sector, not act as an economic stimulus — something many lawmakers probably dispute.
Watch what the markets do. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), in announcing last night that the negotiations had failed, added, “I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow.”
The Asian markets plunged when it was clear that the bailout was dead, with Japan’s market falling 5.6 percent. The Dow is currently down about 115 points – not terribly substantial relative to some other falls we’ve seen in recent weeks. If the trend continues, however, Paulson & Co. might be forced to have a quick change of heart.
Dexter Cooke

Dexter Cooke

Dexter Cooke is an economist, marketing strategist, and orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience crafting compelling narratives that resonate worldwide. He holds a Journalism degree from Columbia University, an Economics background from Yale University, and a medical degree with a postdoctoral fellowship in orthopedic medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina. Dexter’s insights into media, economics, and marketing shine through his prolific contributions to respected publications and advisory roles for influential organizations. As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive knee replacement surgery and laparoscopic procedures, Dexter prioritizes patient care above all. Outside his professional pursuits, Dexter enjoys collecting vintage watches, studying ancient civilizations, learning about astronomy, and participating in charity runs.
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