Auto bailout talks collapse over union wages

ToI 12/12/08

 

WASHINGTON: A $14-billion emergency bailout for US automakers collapsed in the Senate Thursday night after the United Auto Workers union refused to accede to Republican demands for swift wage cuts.

 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was “terribly disappointed” about the demise of an emerging bipartisan deal to rescue the Big Three.

He spoke shortly after Republicans left a closed-door meeting where they balked at giving the automakers federal aid unless their powerful union agreed to slash wages next year to bring them into line with those of Japanese carmakers.

Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich, a strong bailout supporter, said the UAW was willing to make the cuts, but not until 2011.

Reid was working to set a swift test vote on the measure Thursday night, but it was just a formality. The bill was virtually certain to fail to reach the 60-vote threshold it would need to clear to advance.

Reid called the bill’s collapse “a loss for the country,” adding “I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow. It’s not going to be a pleasant sight.”

The implosion followed an unprecedented marathon set of talks in Washington among labor, the auto industry and lawmakers who bargained into the night in efforts to salvage the auto bailout at a time of soaring job losses and widespread economic turmoil.

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