President Obama Speaks on the Resurgence of the American Auto Industry

President Obama Speaks on the Resurgence of the American Auto Industry


The President:
How’s it going, UAW?
(applause)
It is good to be with
some autoworkers today!
(applause)
All right.
Everybody have a
seat, get comfortable.
Go ahead and get comfortable.
I’m going to talk
for a little bit.
(applause)
First of all, I want to say
thank you to one of the finest
leaders that we have
in labor — Bob King.
Give it up for Bob.
(applause)
I want to thank the
International Executive
Board and all of you for
having me here today.
It is a great honor.
I brought along somebody who is
proving to be one of the finest
Secretaries of Transportation
in our history — Ray LaHood
is in the house.
Give Ray a big
round of applause.
(applause)
It is always an honor to spend
time with folks who represent
the working men and
women of America.
(applause)
It’s unions like yours that
fought for jobs and opportunity
for generations of
American workers.
It’s unions like yours that
helped build the arsenal of
democracy that defeated
fascism and won World War II.
It’s unions like yours that
forged the American middle
class — that great
engine of prosperity,
the greatest that the
world has ever known.
So you guys helped to
write the American story.
And today, you’re busy
writing a proud new chapter.
You are reminding us that no
matter how tough times get,
Americans are tougher.
(applause)
No matter how many punches
we take, we don’t give up.
We get up.
We fight back.
We move forward.
We come out the other side
stronger than before.
That’s what you’ve shown us.
(applause)
You’re showing us what’s
possible in America.
So I’m here to tell you one
thing today: You make me proud.
(applause)
You make me proud.
Take a minute and think about
what you and the workers and the
families that you represent
have fought through.
A few years ago, nearly one in
five autoworkers were handed a
pink slip — one in five.
Four hundred thousand jobs
across this industry vanished
the year before I took office.
And then as the financial
crisis hit with its full force,
America faced a hard and
once unimaginable reality,
that two of the Big 3 automakers
— GM and Chrysler — were on
the brink of liquidation.
The heartbeat of American
manufacturing was flat-lining
and we had to make a choice.
With the economy in complete
free fall there were no private
investors or companies out there
willing to take a chance on the
auto industry.
Nobody was lining up
to give you guys loans.
Anyone in the financial
sector can tell you that.
So we could have kept giving
billions of dollars of taxpayer
dollars to automakers without
demanding the real changes or
accountability in return
that were needed — that
was one option.
But that wouldn’t have solved
anything in the long term.
Sooner or later we would
have run out of money.
We could have just kicked
the problem down the road.
The other option was to do
absolutely nothing and let
these companies fail.
And you will recall there were
some politicians who said we
should do that.
Audience:
Booo —
The President:
Some even said we should
“let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Audience:
Booo —
The President:
You remember that?
(applause)
You know.
(laughter)
Think about what that choice
would have meant for this
country, if we had
turned our backs on you,
if America had
thrown in the towel,
if GM and Chrysler
had gone under.
The suppliers, the distributors
that get their business from
these companies, they
would have died off.
Then even Ford could
have gone down as well.
Production shut down.
Factories shuttered.
Once-proud companies chopped
up and sold off for scraps.
And all of you, the men and
women who built these companies
with your own hands, would
have been hung out to dry.
More than one million Americans
across the country would have
lost their jobs in the middle of
the worst economic crisis since
the Great Depression.
In communities
across the Midwest,
it would have been
another Great Depression.
And then think about all the
people who depend on you.
Not just your families,
but the schoolteachers,
the small business owners, the
server in the diner who knows
your order, the bartender who’s
waiting for you to get off.
(laughter)
That’s right.
(applause)
Their livelihoods
were at stake as well.
And you know what
was else at stake?
How many of you who’ve worked
the assembly line had a father
or a grandfather or a mother
who worked on that same line?
(applause)
How many of you have sons and
daughters who said, you know,
Mom, Dad, I’d like to
work at the plant, too?
(applause)
These jobs are worth more
than just a paycheck.
They’re a source of pride.
They’re a ticket to a
middle-class life that make it
possible for you to own a home
and raise kids and maybe send
them — yes — to college.
(applause)
Give you a chance to retire with
some dignity and some respect.
These companies are worth more
than just the cars they build.
They’re a symbol of American
innovation and know-how.
They’re the source of
our manufacturing might.
If that’s not worth fighting
for, what’s worth fighting for?
(applause)
So, no, we were not going to
take a knee and do nothing.
We were not going to give up on
your jobs and your families and
your communities.
So in exchange for help, we
demanded responsibility.
We said to the auto industry,
you’re going to have to truly
change, not just pretend
like you’re changing.
And thanks to outstanding
leadership like Bob King,
we were able to get labor
and management to settle
their differences.
(applause)
We got the industry to
retool and restructure,
and everybody involved
made sacrifices.
Everybody had some
skin in the game.
And it wasn’t popular.
And it wasn’t what I
ran for President to do.
That wasn’t originally what I
thought I was going to be doing
as President.
(laughter)
But you know what, I did run to
make the tough calls and do the
right things — no matter
what the politics were.
(applause)
And I want you to know,
you know why I knew this
rescue would succeed?
Audience Member:
How did you do it?
(laughter)
The President:
You want to know?
It wasn’t because of
anything the government did.
It wasn’t just because of
anything management did.
It was because I
believed in you.
I placed my bet on
the American worker.
(applause)
And I’ll make that bet
any day of the week.
(applause)
And now, three years later
— three years later,
that bet is paying off —
not just paying off for you,
it’s paying off for America.
Three years later, the American
auto industry is back.
(applause)
GM is back on top as the
number-one automaker in
the world —
(applause)
— highest profits in
its 100-year history.
Chrysler is growing faster
in America than any other
car company.
(applause)
Ford is investing billions
in American plants,
American factories — plans
to bring thousands of jobs
back to America.
(applause)
All told, the entire industry
has added more than 200,000 new
jobs over the past two and a
half years — 200,000 new jobs.
And here’s the best part —
you’re not just building cars
again; you’re
building better cars.
(applause)
After three decades of inaction,
we’re gradually putting in place
the toughest fuel economy
standards in history for
our cars and pickups.
That means the cars you build
will average nearly 55 miles per
gallon by the middle of the
next decade — almost double
what they get today.
(applause)
That means folks, every
time they fill up,
they’re going to
be saving money.
They’ll have to fill up every
two weeks instead of every week.
That saves the typical
family more than $8,000
at the pump over time.
That means we’ll cut our
oil consumption by more
than 2 million barrels a day.
That means we have to import
less oil while we’re selling
more cars all around the world.
(applause)
Thanks to the bipartisan trade
agreement I signed into law —
with you in mind, working with
you — there will soon be new
cars in the streets of South
Korea imported from Detroit and
from Toledo and from Chicago.
(applause)
And today — I talked about
this at the State of the Union,
we are doing it today — I am
creating a Trade Enforcement
Unit that will bring the full
resources of the federal
government to bear
on investigations,
and we’re going to counter any
unfair trading practices around
the world, including by
countries like China.
(applause)
America has the best
workers in the world.
When the playing field is
level, nobody will beat us.
And we’re going to make sure
that playing field is level.
(applause)
Because America always wins when
the playing field is level.
And because everyone came
together and worked together,
the most high-tech,
fuel-efficient,
good-looking cars in the world
are once again designed and
engineered and forged and
built — not in Europe,
not in Asia — right here in
the United States of America.
(applause)
I’ve seen it myself.
I’ve seen it myself.
I’ve seen it at Chrysler’s
Jefferson North Plant in
Detroit, where a new
shift of more than 1,000
workers came on two years ago,
another 1,000 slated to come on
next year.
I’ve seen it in my hometown
at Ford’s Chicago Assembly —
(applause)
— where workers are building a
new Explorer and selling it to
dozens of countries
around the world.
Audience Member:
I’m buying one, too.
The President:
There you go.
(laughter)
I’ve seen it at GM’s
Lordstown plant in Ohio —
(applause)
— where workers got their jobs
back to build the Chevy Cobalt,
and at GM’s Hamtramck
plant in Detroit —
(applause)
— where I got to get inside a
brand-new Chevy Volt fresh off
the line — even though
Secret Service wouldn’t
let me drive it.
(laughter)
But I liked sitting in it.
(laughter)
It was nice.
I’ll bet it drives real good.
(laughter)
And five years from now when
I’m not President anymore,
I’ll buy one and
drive it myself.
(applause)
Yes, that’s right.
Audience (chanting):
Four more years! Four more years!
The President:
I know our bet was a
good one because I had
seen it pay off firsthand.
But here’s the thing.
You don’t have to
take my word for it.
Ask the Chrysler
workers near Kokomo —
(applause)
— who were brought on to make
sure the newest high-tech
transmissions and fuel-efficient
engines are made in America.
Or ask the GM workers in
Spring Hill, Tennessee,
whose jobs were saved
from being sent abroad.
(applause)
Ask the Ford workers in Kansas
City coming on to make the F-150
— America’s best-selling truck,
a more fuel-efficient truck.
(applause)
And you ask all the suppliers
who are expanding and hiring,
and the communities
that rely on them,
if America’s investment
in you was a good bet.
They’ll tell you
the right answer.
And who knows, maybe the
naysayers would finally come
around and say that standing by
America’s workers was the right
thing to do.
(applause)
Because, I’ve got to admit, it’s
been funny to watch some of
these folks completely try to
rewrite history now that you’re
back on your feet.
(applause)
The same folks who said, if we
went forward with our plan to
rescue Detroit, “you
can kiss the American
automotive industry goodbye.”
Now they’re saying, we
were right all along.
(laughter)
Or you’ve got
folks saying, well,
the real problem is — what we
really disagreed with was the
workers, they all made out like
bandits — that saving the auto
industry was just about
paying back the unions.
Really?
(laughter)
I mean, even by the
standards of this town,
that’s a load of you know what.
(laughter)
About 700,000 retirees had to
make sacrifices on their health
care benefits that
they had earned.
A lot of you saw hours reduced,
or pay or wages scaled back.
You gave up some of
your rights as workers.
Promises were made to you over
the years that you gave up for
the sake and survival of this
industry — its workers,
their families.
You want to talk
about sacrifice?
You made sacrifices.
(applause)
This wasn’t an easy thing to do.
Let me tell you, I keep on
hearing these same folks talk
about values all the time.
You want to talk about values?
Hard work — that’s a value.
(applause)
Looking out for one
another — that’s a value.
The idea that we’re
all in it together,
and I’m my brother’s keeper
and sister’s keeper —
that’s a value.
(applause)
They’re out there talking about
you like you’re some special
interest that needs
to be beaten down.
Since when are hardworking men
and women who are putting in a
hard day’s work every
day — since when are
they special interests?
Since when is the idea that
we look out for one another
a bad thing?
I remember my old friend, Ted
Kennedy — he used to say,
what is it about working men and
women they find so offensive?
(laughter)
This notion that we should have
let the auto industry die,
that we should pursue
anti-worker policies in the
hopes that unions like yours
will buckle and unravel —
that’s part of that same old
“you are on your own” philosophy
that says we should just
leave everybody to fend
for themselves; let
the most powerful do
whatever they please.
They think the best way to boost
the economy is to roll back the
reforms we put into place
to prevent another crisis,
to let Wall Street
write the rules again.
They think the best way to help
families afford health care is
to roll back the reforms we
passed that’s already lowering
costs for millions of Americans.
(applause)
They want to go back to the days
when insurance companies could
deny your coverage or jack up
your rates whenever and however
they pleased.
They think we should keep
cutting taxes for those at the
very top, for people like me,
even though we don’t need it,
just so they can keep
paying lower tax rates
than their secretaries.
Well, let me tell you something.
Not to put too fine a point
on it — they’re wrong.
(laughter)
They are wrong.
(applause)
That’s the philosophy that
got us into this mess.
We can’t afford
to go back to it.
Not now.
We’ve got a lot of work to do.
We’ve got a long way to go
before everybody who wants a
good job can get a good job.
We’ve got a long way to go
before middle-class Americans
fully regain that sense of
security that’s been slipping
away since long before
this recession hit.
But you know what, we’ve got
something to show — all of
you show what’s possible
when we pull together.
Over the last two years, our
businesses have added about
3.7 million new jobs.
Manufacturing is coming back for
the first time since the 1990s.
Companies are bringing
jobs back from overseas.
(applause)
The economy is getting stronger.
The recovery is speeding up.
Now is the time to keep
our foot on the gas,
not put on the brakes.
And I’m not going to settle for
a country where just a few do
really well and everybody
else is struggling to get by.
(applause)
We’re fighting for an economy
where everybody gets a fair
shot, where everybody
does their fair share,
where everybody plays by
the same set of rules.
We’re not going to go back
to an economy that’s all
about outsourcing and bad
debt and phony profits.
We’re fighting for an economy
that’s built to last,
that’s built on things
like education and energy
and manufacturing.
Making things, not just buying
things — making things that the
rest of the world wants to buy.
And restoring the values that
made this country great: hard
work and fair play, the chance
to make it if you really try,
the responsibility to reach back
and help somebody else make it,
too — not just you.
That’s who we are.
That’s what we believe in.
(applause)
Audience Member:
(inaudible)
(applause)
The President:
I was telling you I visited
Chrysler’s Jefferson North
Plant in Detroit about
a year and a half ago.
Now, the day I visited,
some of the employees
had won the lottery.
Not kidding.
They had won the lottery.
Now, you might think that after
that they’d all be kicking back
and retiring.
(laughter)
And no one would
fault them for that.
Building cars is tough work.
But that’s not what they did.
The guy who bought —
Audience Member:
What did they do?
The President:
Funny you ask.
(laughter)
The guy who bought
the winning ticket,
he was a proud UAW member
who worked on the line.
So he used some of his winnings
to buy his wife the car that he
builds because he’s
really proud of his work.
(applause)
Then he bought brand new
American flags for his
hometown because he’s
proud of his country.
(applause)
And he and the other winners are
still clocking in at that plant
today, because they’re proud
of the part they and their
coworkers play in
America’s comeback.
See, that’s what
America is about.
America is not just
looking out for yourself.
It’s not just about greed.
It’s not just about trying to
climb to the very top and keep
everybody else down.
When our assembly
lines grind to a halt,
we work together and we
get them going again.
When somebody else falters,
we try to give them a hand up,
because we know we’re
all in it together.
I got my start standing with
working folks who’d lost their
jobs, folks who had lost their
hope because the steel plants
had closed down.
I didn’t like the idea that
they didn’t have anybody
fighting for them.
The same reason I got into this
business is the same reason I’m
here today.
I’m driven by that same belief
that everybody — everybody —
should deserve a chance.
(applause)
So I promise you this: As long
as you’ve got an ounce of fight
left in you, I’ll have a
ton of fight left in me.
(applause)
We’re going to keep on fighting
to make our economy stronger;
to put our friends and
neighbors back to work faster;
to give our children
even more opportunity;
to make sure that the United
States of America remains the
greatest nation on Earth.
(applause)
Thank you, UAW.
I love you. God bless you.
God bless the work you do.
God bless the United
States of America.
(applause)

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