Washington, D.C. – United Auto Workers Union (UAW) president Ron Gettelfinger said that meetings he and the CEOs of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors had with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were “constructive discussions about the state of the auto industry and the steps government can take to help companies, workers and retirees.”

Difficulties in the industry are driven by consumer reactions to tough economic times and the lack of affordable credit for big-ticket items, Gettelfinger said.

“We want to thank Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid for putting this issue at the top of the legislative agenda,” Gettelfinger said. “There is an urgent need for federal assistance, not just for our members, but for millions of workers and retirees, and for thousands of companies who depend on the auto industry for jobs, retirement benefits and revenue. It is essential that the federal government act to prevent further damage to a critical industry which supports billions of dollars worth of economic activity in cities and towns all across the country. The U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve can help immediately by taking steps to provide liquidity to auto manufacturers so they can get through the difficulties caused by an across-the-board decline in auto sales.”

Gettelfinger also said that Congress should act immediately to provide an additional US$25 billion in loans so that the auto companies can meet health care obligations to more than 780,000 retirees and dependents.

“We look forward to meeting in the near future with President-elect Barack Obama to discuss these same issues. He has been a leader in the U.S. Senate in working to provide assistance to the auto industry and U.S. manufacturing. We share his vision of a revitalized U.S. economy based on good jobs and good wages, and timely assistance to the U.S. auto industry is a critical first step in achieving these goals.”

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