Washington, D.C. – Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, along with advocacy group Essential Action director Robert Weissman, said that the rejection of the US$14 billion aid package to the domestic automakers by the Senate is an attempt to break the United Auto Workers Union (UAW).

The package passed the House of Congress and was supported by the UAW, the White House and most of the Democratic leadership, but was blocked by Senate Republications in a vote of 52 to 35.

“In an effort to break the United Auto Workers, a union that historically has been responsible for raising wages and benefits not just for unionized auto workers but for all working Americans, Senate Republicans are apparently willing to permit the collapse of the U.S. auto industry,” Nader and Weissman said in a statement. “Unionized auto workers have made steady concessions over the last quarter-century, including in the 2007 contract, which will have many new workers start jobs at $14 an hour. These employees will be making about half of what their co-workers earn.

“It is both an outrage and illogical for the Senate Republicans to suggest UAW worker wages and benefits should be driven down to the levels at non-unionized Japanese plants in the United States. It is an outrage because it disrespects the hard and dangerous work done by auto workers, explicitly aims to undermine the benefits of workers joining together to exercise their right to bargain collectively, and accelerates the United States’ trajectory to ever-descending wages and benefits. It is illogical, too. Although the Japanese plants keep wages close to UAW rates as an anti-union strategy, they can always lower their wages further, on a unilateral basis, in a never-ending race to the bottom.

“The action by the Senate Republicans is extraordinarily reckless, challenging the most important institution for advancing working peoples’ living standards – unions – and threatening to worsen drastically an already severe recession.

“Even the Republicans’ sense of political self-interest seems dimmed by their anti-union zealotry. Senate Republicans may think they gain political points by standing against assistance to a major industry, but they will suffer political damage lasting generations if they permit the U.S. auto industry to collapse.”

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