The United Autoworkers Union is missing in action from a congressional hearing on the auto bailout today. You could be excused for not hearing that the majority shareholder in Chrysler LLC and the owner of almost a fifth of General Motors isn't testifying because the panel is meeting in Detroit, not Washington.
UAW Legislative Director Alan Reuther hasn't explained his absence from the hearing, the Detroit News reports. The oversight panel is reviewing the use of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to prevent GM and Chrysler from possibly being liquidated earlier this year. Government auto task force director Ron Bloom will testify, as will the treasurers of GM and Chrysler.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who sits on the panel, wrote a letter to chairwoman Elizabeth Warren in June, urging her to look over the decision to give GM and Chysler $80 billion from TARP, which was originally created to help save banks, not automakers. (Ford Motor Company hasn't taken bailout funds.) The meeting was scheduled more than a month ago, but the UAW is a no-show today.
The Bush administration authorized TARP funds to go to both companies, a policy that was continued by President Obama before the companies entered bankruptcy reorganization this spring. Under the bankruptcy agreements sponsored by the government, the UAW's Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association that funds retiree health care costs received 55 percent of Chrysler stock and 17.5 percent of GM stock. The Treasury Department and private investors own combinations of the rest of the companies stocks.
Expect Republicans to use this episode to further press their allegation that Democrats pushed GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy just to give the spoils to their union allies.