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America has a vibrant and successful auto industry — just largely outside of Detroit. For years, many foreign automakers’ American divisions have been successful at making cars profitably, while creating thousands of well-paying jobs. One reason for the foreign automakers’ success has been their ability to work without the burdensome work rules faced by the Big Three under their contracts with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

Apparently, UAW President Bob King doesn’t like that one bit. In fact, he seems to feel so strongly about it that he recently announced that for companies that resist its organizing efforts, the UAW “will launch a global campaign to brand that company a human-rights violator.” What might such a campaign entail?

One indication can be found in the Obama administration’s report to the bad joke known as the U.N. Human Rights Council — whose members include such human rights champions as China, Cuba, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. In the report, submitted in August 2010, the State Department strongly suggests that the degree to which the law facilitates unionization should be a human rights matter — and that the U.S. falls short in that area.

The UAW — or any other union, for that matter — likely would cite the State Department document in any complaint filed to the International Labor Organization, World Trade Organization, or any other international body — maybe even the ridiculous U.N. Human Rights Council. And King’s recent remarks indicate this is an option the UAW might well pursue.

King also recently acknowledged that the UAW is in trouble. Speaking to an audience of 1,000 union members at a Washington political action conference, he said, “If we don’t organize these transnationals, I don’t think there’s a long term future for the UAW — I really don’t.” With those kind of stakes, it would be surprising for the UAW not to take some drastic action.

The upshot of all this is that we could end up seeing the UAW ask international bodies composed of foreign governments — including some undemocratic ones — for help in unionizing American workers. Stranger things have happened.

For more on labor, see here and here.

Eliot Spitzer, who occasionally publishes over at Slate, wrote yesterday about President Obama’s “disastrous Asia trip” and decried America’s fall from grace as a world leader. The culprit? Wall Street. Pretend you’re shocked.

First, he writes that South Korea rejected a “reasonably standard and straightforward trade pact.” That isn’t quite what happened. Rather than Korea, the U.S. [has, for a few years now] rejected a reasonably standard and straightforward trade pact by failing to approve an already negotiated trade agreement. Obama went to Korea on behalf of the domestic auto industry in an attempt to negotiate increased access to the South Korean auto market on behalf of the UAW, etc. Here is a good summary on why Koreans are unlikely to be buying many American automobiles, and why the KORUS-FTA is a very good deal for the United States.

Ironically, one complaint from the auto industry was that Korean regulatory requirements for auto emissions and fuel economy were too restrictive. Normally the standard union opposition to free trade is that they don’t want to hurt the little guy in foreign countries where labor and environmental standards are often lower. One might think in this case that they’d be thrilled that Korea has more stringent environmental regulations for their automobiles than the United States does. Except that they weren’t thrilled, and Obama still attempted to renegotiate the agreement despite South Korea making it very clear that there would be no more negotiations.

This would seem to dispel any illusion that unions, etc. actually care about the little guy. They care about the American “little guy” (e.g., their dues-paying members, constituents) — where the American little guy is richer and healthier than 90 percent of the rest of the world — and will actively seek policies that do not allow the actual little guy the ability to improve his life.

Back to Spitzer. He is frustrated that the the United States’ alleged fall from grace has led to all sorts of problems, from the failure to succeed in bullying other countries into accepting our one-sided trade terms, to international support for China to revalue its currency, and a failure to get the G20 to “agree to anything more than vapid words about trade.” Spitzer doesn’t elaborate much on this, as the Asia introduction was nothing but another excuse for Spitzer to write an article attacking Wall Street. Read the rest if you’d like to hear Spitzer jump through hoops in order to explain how Wall Street is solely responsible for all the problems America faces today.

Don’t hold your breath on the further liberalization of trade anytime soon, recent polling data indicates that fewer and fewer people believe free trade agreements help the United States. Given the recession and the new understanding in America that some of these other countries are no longer third world watering holes, it seems that Made-in-America might make a comeback.

Photo credit: GreenDominee’s flickr photostream.

Any General Motors bonds issued this year will be classified as junk by a key ratings agency.  Why?  There’s some risk GM will go bankrupt again, and it hasn’t really returned to profitability, the way it appeared to have. That’s because GM’s recent quarterly profit, which came after years of losses and tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts, was artificially created by the temporary deferral of billions of dollars in pension obligations that it owes to the United Auto Workers union.  Those unfunded pension obligations have risen by $6 billion since the end of 2009.  As Charles Lane of The Washington Post notes,

[A] little-noticed October 6 report from Fitch, the ratings agency, which highlighted the major unresolved issue of the bailout: pension obligations to its United Auto Workers employees. The union successfully resisted efforts to trim this long-term burden on the company through the bankruptcy process, and they continue to weigh heavily on the company’s future. Specifically, GM’s relatively robust free cash position – one of its major selling points in its pending IPO – is being artificially propped up by the fact that it is not yet legally required to make multi-billion-dollar payments into its ‘heavily underfunded’ U.S. pension funds. How underfunded are they? Well, the U.S. plans alone are $17 billion underfunded as of the end of 2009, Fitch says. When you include global operations, the total is $27 billion. . . GM’s pension obligations are actually $6 billion higher than they appeared at the end of 2009.

These obligations will likely have far more impact on GM’s financial future than the recent revelations that it lied about the Chevy Volt, which it was trumpeting in a “publicity stunt” to curry favor with politicians crusading against global warming.

Earlier, GM lied about whether it had paid back taxpayers for its bailout, which resulted in GM getting $50 billion in taxpayer money, and its finance arm GMAC getting another $17 billion.  (GM also received billions indirectly from taxpayers, through programs like the incredibly wasteful Cash for Clunkers, which cost  used-car and car-parts dealers billions.)

The Obama administration used the bailouts to keep the United Auto Workers’ massive compensation (worth up to $70 an hour), pension benefits, and rigid union work rules largely intact, while giving the UAW a big chunk of General Motors‘ stock, even though the UAW helped bankrupt the company.  The auto bailouts were so wasteful and so biased in favor of the UAW that they disturbed even the liberal Washington Post editorial board.

Another reason for treating GM bonds as junk is the way the Obama administration mistreated GM’s past bondholders.  It engineered the wiping out of General Motors’ bondholders, some of whom were non-union employees who had invested their life savings in the company, so that the GM stock that the Obama administration was giving the UAW would be worth more.

GM also faces increased regulatory burdens, such as CAFE rules ratcheted up in the name of global warming  (the initial tightening of those rules will wipe out at least 50,000 jobs in the auto industry), that will make it hard for it to expand its anemic 19 percent market share.  Other EPA global warming rules are expected to wipe out at least 800,000 American jobs and impose heavy costs on suppliers of materials used in manufacturing automobiles.  The EPA’s proposed ozone rules would wipe out 7.3 million jobs, according to one study.

CEI Weekly is a compilation of articles and blog posts from CEI’s fellows and associates sent out via e-mail every Friday. Also included in the weekly newsletter is a brief description of CEI’s weekly podcast and a feature on a major CEI breakthrough made during the week. To sign up for CEI Weekly, go to http://cei.org/newsletters.

CEI Weekly
October 8, 2010

>>Featured Story
A United Auto Workers local in Indiana voted to close a GM supplier plant rather than accept a pay cut. Now 650 workers will have to be transferred to other towns. Labor Counsel Vincent Vernuccio was on Varney & Co. to comment on the union local’s decision. Watch the video here.

>>Shaping the Debate
Answer This: Fred Smith
Fred Smith’s interview on Politico.com

Burn Baby Burn?
Iain Murray’s blog post on The Washington Examiner’s Opinion Zone

How Green Products Will Cost You Green
Ben Lieberman’s radio interview on The G. Gordon Liddy Show

The Green Agenda
Ben Lieberman’s citation in Investor’s Business Daily

Could the Event Surrounding the Rutgers Suicide be Considered a Hate Crime?
Hans Bader’s citation on Yahoo News


>>Best of the Blogs
Is the Internet’s Future in Jeopardy?
By Ryan Radia

Obama’s Solar Rooftop Panel: Back to the Future Carter
By Marlo Lewis, Jr.

If You Like Your Health Plan, You May Lose It Anyway
By Hans Bader

Sharing Isn’t Caring
By Marc Scribner

>>CEI Podcast
October 7, 2010: Trade, Jobs, and Korea

CEI Adjunct Fellow Fran Smith talks about the EU-Korea free trade agreement that takes effect next year, and why the US-Korea FTA stalled, to the economy’s detriment. Fran also talks about NAFTA’s impact on jobs, and why imports are a good thing.

>>Support CEI

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Today, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered a lower court to explain its dismissal of a class action lawsuit challenging a forced unionization scheme for child care workers in the state. The suit. This is welcome news, since this suit takes on directly one of Big Labor’s newest efforts to expand its falling membership: expand the definition of the “public” sector.

For years, government employment is the one area in which unionization had grown at a robust pace, even as unions’ private sector numbers fell precipitously. That trend reached a tipping point last January, when the number of union members in government employment surpassed the number of private sector union members for the first time. There is no reason to expect the trend to reverse.

So, as unions continue to struggle at reviving their private sector fortunes, some are now seeking to redefine many private sector workers as government employees. In Michigan, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) partnered to create a child-care worker union whose main purpose was to collect union dues from the state subsidy checks sent to child care providers who served low-income families. As The Grand Rapids Press explains in an editorial:

In 2006, the UAW and AFSCME partnered to form a union called Child Care Providers Together Michigan. The union represents and draws dues from people who care for children from low-income families. The new union members belong either to the UAW or AFSCME, depending on the part of the state in which they live.

Whatever attempts were made to inform child care providers of the pending unionization must have been feeble at best. Only 15 percent of the state’s 40,000 dues-paying providers took part in the vote-by-mail certification election that formed the union. Fully 92 percent of those voting said yes to the union. But they hardly constitute a valid majority of all the now-dues-paying members. Hopefully, the federal lawsuit will uncover how this election was allowed to occur.

The low-income clients provided a rationale — though not a legitimate one — for the forced unionization. The argument is that because providers take public money in state subsidies for those clients, they are therefore public employees. Union dues are taken directly from the state subsidies, money that should go toward child care. The UAW and AFSCME receive 1.15 percent of the subsidies, amounting to more than $1 million a year.

This also gives organized labor a good reason to support the Obama health care legislation. Expanding the definition of “public” to any public service provider who receives any sort of state support gives unions new opportunities to organize health care workers, as more of them are officially deemed ”public” employees.

An Associated Press  story sums up the absurdity of the situation this creates, with one of the plaintiffs as an example:

Peggy Mashke tends to 12 children for 12 hours a day at her home, so she was surprised to get a letter welcoming her to the United Auto Workers union.

“I thought it was a joke,” said Mashke, 50, of northern Michigan’s Ogemaw County. “I work out of my home. I’m not an auto worker. How can I become a member of the UAW? I didn’t get it.”

The current suit was filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation; the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy has filed a similar suit. This case deserves national attention, as unions in other states are likely to try similar schemes.

For more on public sector unions, see here and here.

President Obama’s tax-cheat treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, is trumpeting the fact that General Motors has paid back a small fraction of what taxpayers gave the company, noting that “GM had repaid in full the $4.7 billion balance it owed under the government’s Trouble Asset Relief Program.” But this so-called “repayment” was just an accounting trick.  GM used government bailout money to make the “repayment,” as the New York Times has noted.

More importantly, this “repayment” is a drop in the bucket compared to what GM has received from taxpayers.  The federal government has yet to recover the lion’s share of the more than $50 billion it loaned the company.  Why?  Because that $50 billion was mostly “converted into stock held by the Treasury Department.”  That’s billions of dollars for stock in a company that, for all intents and purposes, was bankrupt. (GM just lost another $4.3 billion.)

The only reason GM had enough money left to pay back any of what it owes taxpayers is because of Toyota’s recent safety issues and recalls, which drove car buyers away from Toyota to GM and Ford.  Only that kept GM from burning through most of the taxpayers’ money.

Even though GM still hasn’t paid back the $50 billion, and received billions in additional handouts through programs like the incredibly wasteful Cash for Clunkers (which cost taxpayers and used-car and car-parts businesses billions), Obama backers now claim that critics of the bailout owe Obama, GM, and the UAW “an apology.”

Ironically, GM would never have needed a bailout if it had just received relief from costly regulations such as CAFE rules (which wiped out at least 50,000 jobs) and dealer-franchise laws.  That’s so despite GM’s massive burdens from excessive union wages and benefits (worth up to $70 an hour), and rigid union work rules.

The Obama Administration left those wasteful work rules and excessive benefits largely intact, and gave the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) a big chunk of General Motors‘ stock, even though the UAW helped bankrupt the company, and the company has value today only because the federal government pumped billions of taxpayer dollars into the company (and engineered the wiping out of General Motors’ bondholders, some of whom were non-union employees who had invested their life savings in the company).

Veteran political commentator Michael Barone called the Obama administration’s treatment of Chrysler and GM bondholders “gangster government.” Law professor and bankruptcy expert Todd Zywicki called it an attack on “the rule of law.”

Back in 2008, Zywicki prophetically warned that a bailout would prove worse for the auto industry than for automakers to just quickly file for bankruptcy.   Zywicki noted that by enabling automakers to get rid of expensive union contracts and red tape, a “Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will likely result in a stronger domestic industry.”   It would provide  “a mechanism for forcing UAW workers to take further pay cuts, reduce their gold-plated health and retirement benefits, and overcome their cumbersome union work rules.”  It would also help automakers get rid of redundant auto dealerships that should be terminated but aren’t because of state dealer franchise laws.  Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker also argued that bankruptcy would have been better than a bailout in achieving “needed reforms.”

But the federal government ignored their wise advice, and chose to embark an incredibly costly bailout instead.   The bailout of GM and Chrysler is similar in many ways to the British government’s unsuccessful auto bailout in the 1970s, which ultimately failed despite a cost in the billions.

The federal government used money from the $700 billion bank bailout for the auto industry bailout. Legal scholars at the Heritage Foundation, Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich and many other commentators have argued that using the bank-bailout money for auto bailouts was illegal.

The Obama administration wants to increase taxes on productive banks that are self-supporting, while exempting the mortgage giants and other companies that got massive taxpayer bailouts.  For more details, click on this graph, “Bank-robbing tax lets ‘bad guys’ go free,” courtesy of a Washington think-tank, the Heritage Foundation.  It shows that the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are exempt and will never have to pay a dime, despite being bailed out by taxpayers at a cost of more than $200 billion, while Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which are solvent and returned all their TARP money, would be forced to pay billions under the administration’s proposed tax.

General Motors and Chrysler won’t have to pay a dime, either, even though the government claimed they were “financial institutions” just like banks in order to use bank bailout money to bail them out at a cost of at least $70 billion (a bailout that would not even have been needed to save the companies if they had simply been reformed to make them competitive, and received relief from burdensome red tape, like poorly-drafted CAFE and global-warming regulations that may backfire.  Instead, the Obama administration effectively gave the companies, at taxpayer expense, to the UAW, a powerful union opposed to much-needed reforms).

In other news, economists and real estate experts say that a mortgage bailout program the Obama administration spent $75 billion on has backfired and harmed the real estate market.

Obama recently expanded the bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and lavished money ($42 million) on their CEOs.

Under the Bush administration, federal regulators took over Fannie and Freddie in the name of stopping their risky practices. But the Obama administration has increased their purchases of risky mortgages in a vain attempt to inflate the economy. Worse, it forced them to run up to tens of billions in losses to bail out deadbeat and at-risk mortgage borrowers, and then tried to conceal those losses, in conduct reminiscent of Enron.  But their management hasn’t objected, because the costly requirements are accompanied by massive taxpayer bailouts and lavish pay for the mortgage giants’ CEOs.

Fannie and Freddie helped spawn the mortgage crisis by acting as loan toilets, buying up risky mortgages and thus creating an artificial market for junk.  “From the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime.”

Why did they buy these risky loans?  They put up with Clinton-era affordable-housing regulations that required them to buy up lots of risky loans, in order to curry favor on Capitol Hill and thus retain their annual $10 billion in tax and other special privileges (which they possessed owing to their status as “Government-Sponsored Enterprises” or GSEs). They paid their CEOs millions in the process, and engaged in massive accounting fraud — $6.3 billion at Fannie Mae alone — to increase the size of their managers’ bonuses.  As GSEs, they were exempt from the capital requirements that apply to private banks, so they did not have enough reserves to cover their losses when their mortgages started defaulting.

At the direction of the Obama administration, Freddie Mac is now running up $30 billion in losses to bail out mortgage borrowers, some of whom have high incomes.  Federal regulators sought to make Freddie Mac hide the resulting losses from the SEC and the public.

Under Obama’s proposed financial “reforms,” banks will be pressured to make even more risky, low-income loans. Obama has sent to Congress his proposal to create a politically correct entity called the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, tasked with enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act. Government pressure on banks to make low-income loans was a key reason for the mortgage meltdown and the financial crisis. Yet Obama’s proposals would empower the new agency to enforce the Community Reinvestment Act, which was a key contributor to the financial crisiswithout regard for banks’ financial safety and soundness.

Moreover, Obama’s proposed financial rules do absolutely nothing to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, admits Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, even though he admits that “Fannie and Freddie were a core part of what went wrong in our system.”

Meanwhile, a new law backed by the Obama administration, the CARD Act of 2009, has effectively forced responsible credit-cardholders to subsidize irresponsible people, leading to the return of annual fees on many credit cards, and the elimination of many cash-back and rewards programs.  My wife, who has an excellent credit rating, was recently informed that one of her cards will now have an annual fee — of $60!  (She promptly canceled the card.)

With the Detroit auto industry floundering, the United Auto Workers is turning its attention to…day care provider. And to do so, the UAW partnering with the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, a union that organizes workers in the one sector where unionization is growing: government. That’s because some 40,000 Michigan home day care providers have now found themselves classified as working for the state.

Home care providers are government employees? Defining them as such is a novel strategy some unions are pursuing — with help from union-friendly politicians — in order to organize independent businesses who cater to clients who receive any sort of state subsidy. This is what happened to Michigan home day care providers Sherry Loar, Paulette Silverson, and Michelle Berry. The Mackinac Center’s Patrick Wright, who is representing them in a lawsuit, explains:

[I]n December 2008 these women were notified by mail that they were dues-paying members of the newly formed Child Care Providers Together Michigan union, a joint enterprise of the United Auto Workers and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Loar, Silverson, Berry and 40,000 other home-based day care providers in Michigan are now seeing a total of $3.7 million annually taken from their paychecks by the Michigan Department of Human Services and given to the union.

Here’s how the union did it.

The Child Care Providers Together Michigan was formed in or around 2006 with the intent of organizing “[a]ll home-based child care providers.” In July 2006, the DHS entered into an interlocal agreement with Mott Community College to create the Michigan Home Based Child Care Council. This, from all appearances, is a government “shell corporation” designed to get around possible political and constitutional obstructions to the arrangement. In September 2006, CCPTM filed a petition with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission seeking to organize against the MHBCCC.

MERC conducted a vote by mail in October and November 2006. Of the 40,500 home day care providers who would be effected by this decision, 6,396 voted. The outcome was 5,921 in favor of the union and 475 opposed. Neither Loar, Silverson nor Berry believes they were aware of or voted in that election.

In 2008, the CCPTM and the MHBCCC entered into what they called “a collective bargaining agreement.” The mechanism for collecting “union dues” was through child care subsidy payments made to needy families with children in home day care. When those payments were passed on to Loar, Silverson and Berry, dues were withheld. The Michigan Department of Human Services began collecting the dues in January 2009.

The Mackinac Center is seeking a writ of mandamus to keep the state’s Department of Human Services from deducting dues, which, at 1.15 percent of each subsidy check, would provide the UAW/AFSCME affiliate with $3.7  million annually.

The main arguments presented in the case are that the plaintiffs, as home-based business owners, are really independent contractors and not government employees of the MHBCCC, and that an interlocal agreement cannot expand the definition of public employee beyond what the Legislature has set.

This tactic is not new. As Wright notes, the Michigan effort follows the same pattern as the model established in California, Oregon, and Washington state for unionizing home care workers who look after disabled and elderly residents. In our Cato Institute paper on public sector unions, my co-authors and I noted this trend.

Now some unions are trying to expand the definition of “public” by trying to organize government contractors. Washington state provides a good example of this. There, the trend began in 2001, when voters approved a ballot measure, Initiative 775, to allow independent long-term health care providers to unionize and bargain collectively over hours, compensation, and working conditions. Then in 2007, Washington state authorized collective bargaining for adult-home-care providers who receive Medicaid and other state aid. Stretching the definition of “public employee” to any home-care provider who may contract with the state can give a public employee union a foothold in the private sector.

The full Cato study is available here.

Workers may get violent if their wages are cut. The United Auto Workers union (UAW) has a monopoly and was an anchor on the Big Three U.S. automakers. These two ideas were professed by two labor leaders at the recent Federalist Society Convention in Washington, D.C.

There may be violence, says Damon A. Silvers, Associate General Counsel for the AFL-CIO and Deputy Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for TARP. Silvers spoke on last Friday’s panel “Labor: Wall Street, Labor Unions, and the Obama Administration: A New Paradigm for Capitol and Labor?” Speaking to the panel, he claimed economic downturns which cause people to have their wages cut, can have devastating results.

Silvers pointed to wage cuts in Brazil and spoke of the violence which ensued. He argued that when people are starving they may get violent, that the have nots will take from the haves. Quickly cautioning that this could not happen in the United States, he smirked and added, “but it may.” Not so subtly, Silvers implied that if you cut union wages there may be violence.

Another gem from the convention came from Thursday’s lead discussion “Redistribution of Wealth.” One presenter, when asked what happened to the auto industry in regards to unions, stated, “Unions missed the most basic fundamental economic role they have to play, which is to take wages out of competition. What happened was when they had a monopoly or took wages out of competition for the Big Three people competed more inefficiently…When the transplants came…the union didn’t do its job, it was an anchor to the competitive field as opposed to a help.”

Which right leaning free-market intellectuals stated this fact? None other than any Andrew Stern, the president of the SEIU! That is correct, Andy Stern blamed the collapse of the Big Three in part to the union monopoly of the UAW and called it an anchor to competition.

More characteristically, Stern also spoke of redistribution of wealth saying, “I do no support, I condemn, the redistribution of wealth — that is to say, the redistribution of wealth upwards.”

Advocating the redistribution of wealth? Cautioning of violence if wages are cut? Is this really the message top officials in the two largest labor unions want to be sending? Both Stern and Silvers knew their audience did not agree with them – Stern was sweating during his presentation – but did make an effort to speak to the constitutionally minded lawyers association.

Unfortunately, while tempered, their message was a clear endorsement of class warfare. Espousing unions as the only way for workers to get ahead in America, they chastised the Reagan era and directly blamed the demise of unions for what they claimed were lower worker wages. They ignored facts of other presenters showing that most workers’ standard of living has actually gone up in the last 30 years.

Stern should be given credit for acknowledging that the UAW monopoly helped almost destroy the American auto industry. He must acknowledge that hard work, innovation, and ingenuity are the real engine of the American economy, not collective bargaining. The monopolistic nature of unions in many industries is a liability to both workers and unions. As Stern pointed out in the context of the failure of the U.S. auto industry, unions’ inflexibility can drag down companies and work as a hindrance, not a help.

Considering the enormous amounts of cash that the federal government has hurled at the auto industry since the start of the financial crisis, recipients of government largess in Detroit should at least have the common courtesy of telling taxpayers what they’re doing with their money. Unfortunately, United Auto Workers boss Ron Gettelfinger doesn’t seem to think that applies to him or his union. So kudos are in order to Rep. Jeb Hensarling for calling out Gettelfinger and the UAW on this:

The lone member of Congress on an oversight panel reviewing the use of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program criticized the decision of the United Auto Workers union not to testify at today’s hearing in Detroit on the auto industry bailout.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who is member of the Congressional Oversight Panel, said the UAW refused to testify at today’s hearing at Wayne State University.

The panel confirmed that it sought the testimony of the UAW. Alan Reuther, the UAW’s legislative director, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Hensarling said he was “disappointed” that UAW President Ron Gettelfinger did not accept invitation to testify.

“He was able to rearrange his schedule to come and ask for TARP money,” he noted.

[...]

“The UAW came before Congress and pleaded for billions of taxpayer assistance. Their ownership stakes in Chrysler and GM look suspicious at best and like sweetheart deals at worst. It’s outrageous they would benefit from the taxpayers’ money and then refuse to testify about it,” Hensarling said in a statement before the opening of today’s hearing.

It’s beyond outrageous; it’s disgraceful — especially in light of the preferential treatment the union has gotten from the government vis-a-vis other bondholders. Even more disgraceful is the fact that the White House and Congress are unlikely to do anything about it. At least now we know what the UAW thinks of the rest of us.