A Wisconsin lawmaker with close ties to the auto industry and its union is accusing many Republicans in the U.S. Senate of being shortsighted, and of having a goal of eliminating the middle class.
The statements from Assembly Spealker-elect Mike Sheridan of Janesville come on the heels of the Senate's failure to pass the $14 billion auto industry bridge loan package. “I was pure politics as far as the Republican Senators turning this thing down,” says Sheridan. The former Janesville GM Assembly Plant worker and United Auto Workers Local 95 president says it's ironic: the auto industry now has to depend on the Bush White House to do the right thing. “We're in tough shape,” says Sheridan. “We don't need any more detestation, and if this auto industry goes down, that's just further deterioration of the economy, and everybody's going to be affected.
The Democratic legislator says he plans to work with Governor Jim Doyle in crafting a message for the White House, to illustrate the continued importance of the domestic auto industry. Responding to calls from some senators to bring wages in-line with those paid by foreign auto makers to their U.S. employees, Sheridan insisted that many concessions have already been made. As part of the 2007 contract with auto makers, the UAW had already agreed to a two-tier wage system with new hires starting at $14 an hour.
“I think it's a very short sighted view,” Sheridan says of the Senate action. “If they would've done their homework and realized just how much the UAW has done not only on an international level but also locally here in Janesville, as far as the savings that we have brought to this company . . . . . I think their goal is to just eliminate the middle class.”
The Treasury Department says it's prepared to act to avoid any possible collapse of the nation's three largest auto companies.