Bailed-out carmakers owe taxpayers reinvestment in U.S.

Brandy Booth

As far as I’m concerned, every employee at General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles owes American taxpayers a heartfelt thank you. We’re grateful for the opportunity to work for such profitable companies.

We’re lucky these jobs weren’t just gone.

Whether you feel the bailouts were a good idea or not, let me assure you that the loans that kept the companies afloat were the best choice for America in the long run.

I’m not just talking about the return on the investment of money, although it’s my understanding that the loans were repaid early and in full.

What I’m talking about is the change that happened to the people, products and companies (as a whole) when the American public came to the rescue with an infusion of cash to keep their life blood flowing.

By change I don’t just mean putting an end to wasteful practices, refocusing on high-quality products that the public loves, or recognizing that every executive is not worth a million-dollar bonus.

I’m talking about the most important change of all. The day that GM and FCA signed on the dotted line, they agreed to invest in America again.

Now wait a minute. … Was there actual language in the government restructuring agreement that said the two companies had to invest profits into rebuilding factories on American soil to bring some jobs back home?

I don’t think there was, but why wouldn’t there be?

Think about it. Without your timely infusion of cash, none of those record profits would have been possible.

Nobody made the firms sell overseas factories during the bankruptcy. Somehow those assets didn’t count.

The companies put their hands out to the American taxpayer and accepted a good faith gesture.

In my opinion, they should put their North American profits to work right here.

The tentative agreement between General Motors and the UAW contains a moratorium on outsourcing that prevents company-mandated attempts to outsource existing work. That’s a step in the right direction.

The companies have also agreed to put on around 400 new skilled trades apprentices over the next four years. But that’s a pretty small number in a workforce of 52,700.

The skilled trades at GM thought that number was too low as well. That group voted the tentative agreement down because they believe a company so dependent on advancing technology should indenture at least twice that many. Considering the nationwide shortage of skilled workers these days, I’d have to agree.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m extremely happy and thankful to have the job that I do. I’d just like you to have the opportunity to have a good job, too.

So I hope that GM and FCA remember the good faith gesture that you — the American taxpayer — made the next time they consider building a factory outside the United States.

I hope company officials change their minds and invest in you, just like you did for them.

Brandy Booth is a member of UAW Local 362 and works at Bay City Powertrain, Bay City.