Let Me Clarify….

The news accounts of my appearance yesterday before the
Detroit Economic Club have centered around the suggestion that I said that
United Auto Workers members should have taken a pay cut in the context of the
2009 restructuring and/or that they should take a pay cut now. Perhaps I
misspoke. Perhaps my remarks were misinterpreted. So let me be clear, I have no
desire to see auto workers (or anyone else) take a pay cut. The members of
President Obama’s Auto Task Force did not work as hard as we did in order for
workers to see their pay slashed. I was asked what, in retrospect, we might
have done differently. I responded that we might have asked ALL of the
stakeholders in the auto companies to make deeper sacrifices in order to
preserve jobs and the profitability of these companies for the future. The
reason for that comment was that as I have watched events unfold in the past 2
½ years, I have become increasingly concerned about the competitiveness of
American manufacturing, including autos. We are competing more and more against
countries whose workers are paid a small fraction of what American workers are
paid but whose productivity is getting closer and closer to U.S. levels (in
some cases, even exceeding it.) All I was trying to say was that if we had
achieved more shared sacrifice at the time of the restructurings, we would be
in a better position to retain more American jobs in the face of this
competition. I wish sacrifice was not necessary. I hope we can get to a place
where the wages of all American workers could go up, instead of sideways or
down. But that will require a massive retooling of the American economy, which
is all I was trying to say.