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King dismisses disparaging UAW remarks in book

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King dismisses disparaging UAW remarks in book

Union president calls White House official's comments 'baloney'

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News

Revelations about how events unfolded that led to a federal bailout of the U.S. auto industry drew mixed reactions Friday from some of the players.

United Auto Workers President Bob King dismissed a derogatory comment about the union made by a high-ranking Obama administration official that was included in an upcoming book about the bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler.

The book quotes White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel declaring "F--- the UAW" at one point during internal administration debates about whether the government should step in to help General Motors.

"It's a bunch of baloney," King said in an e-mail Friday when asked about Rattner's account. "I think it's a diversion."

The book, "Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry," was written by Steven Rattner, a former top auto adviser to the White House. The Detroit News on Thursday published excerpts from a draft manuscript, which was provided by publisher Houghton Mifflin ahead of an Oct. 14 publication date.

"If it wasn't for Rahm Emanuel ... if it wasn't for President Obama and the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, we wouldn't have an auto industry," King said during an interview Friday on CNBC, a financial news cable channel. "Millions of more people would be out of work today."

The White House also brushed off Emanuel's reported quip.

"Throughout the entire process that saved the auto industry, Rahm tirelessly defended and advocated on behalf of the autoworkers," a senior White House aide said. "Any suggestion to the contrary is simply ridiculous."

King was adamant in his defense of the Obama administration and Emanuel.

"Did they do good for the auto industry? Yes, they did," he said on CNBC. "Did Rahm Emanuel play a role in that? Yes, he did. I appreciate him."

By contrast, Warren Mayor James Fouts was "very disturbed" by Rattner's account that White House officials squelched then-GM CEO Fritz Henderson's idea to move the automaker's headquarters to its Tech Center in Warren. Emanuel vetoed the move "as a bridge too far," according to Rattner, who supported the move to Warren.

"While I am committed to helping the City of Detroit thrive, I cannot condone hurting cities like Warren financially by helping Detroit," Fouts wrote in a Friday letter to President Obama. Fouts lobbied for the transfer of GM's headquarters and said it would save money for the automaker.

"This was in effect a government takeover of sound business practice, rather than a bailout of GM," he wrote. "Only in the Soviet system could something like this have taken place."

At another point, the book reports that Fiat SpA CEO Sergio Marchionne clashed with then-UAW President Ron Gettelfinger while pushing for a quick merger of Fiat and Chrysler. Marchionne reportedly told Gettelfinger he needed to accept "a culture of poverty" instead of a "culture of entitlement" -- in particular, targeting retiree health care benefits.

"Why don't you come and sit with me and tell a 75-year-old widow that she can't have surgery and that you killed her husband?" Gettelfinger responded, according to Rattner.

The UAW Friday declined to seek comment from Gettelfinger.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100904/AUTO01/9040344/1148/auto01/King-dismisses-disparaging-UAW-remarks-in-book#ixzz0ylVNUyfy

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