DETROIT – Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney came to town Friday, but autoworkers were in no mood to give him a free pass.
“He assumes he’s going to win Michigan just because he’s from here but he was against the auto bailout and he’s not for working people,” said United Auto Worker member Rachael Siemen. She was holding a sign that read: “foam board: $1.00; marker: $1.68; standing united with my union: priceless.”
Angering her and others is Romney’s refusal to back off the “Let Detroit go Bankrupt” New York Times editorial he wrote in 2008.
She was one of several hundred workers who rallied this past Friday in wet wintry conditions across from the site where Romney was scheduled to address the Detroit Economic Club before Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary.
Speaking at the rally, Stacie Steward, who works at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, gave her personal story of what the loans meant. “My plant was scheduled to close. I had been laid off for 14 months.
“My daughter wanted to go to college and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pay for it. I was watching TV and it came across that Obama was saving the auto industry.
“He took a chance on us. He would not let us fail. And we are the proof that it worked. I just brought a brand new home, and my daughter is in college. Things have turned around so much. Obama saved our jobs.”
UAW International President Bob King said that without the loans we would all be out of jobs. “Because of our sacrifices there will be 30 thousand additional auto jobs. And because of those direct auto jobs there will be 180 to 230 thousand steel jobs, glass jobs, tire jobs.”
“Thank you President Obama” was a refrain heard frequently during the rally.
King said it’s not just Romney who wouldn’t have done the bailout “every single one of them (Republicans) has gone against this great American success story.”
King said “good patriotic Americans” naturally join in congratulating the success of an industry that has brought back American manufacturing jobs that have helped every social sector from increasing church contributions to enabling more people to have money to spend at local businesses.
Romney’s statement that autoworkers “were given something” gets their blood boiling. King continued, “Let me tell you something Mr. Romney, our members gave up from $7,000 to $30,000 a year to keep jobs in America. We revitalized and saved the companies we work for.”
The UAW was not alone in supporting the aid to the auto industry. Every auto manufacturer from Honda to Hyundai supported the loans because of the disaster it would have created in the parts industry where the companies rely on many of the same manufacturers.
And to counter the Republican attack on President Obama even more, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson recently said the loans are the reason for the company’s turnaround and those loans helped cities such as Detroit.
One can only wonder what Republicans are thinking.
Photo: John Rummel/PW