Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KNAU's main phone line is experiencing technical difficulties. Click here to contact members of our team directly.

Why the Obama era 'car czar' thinks striking autoworkers risk overplaying their hand

Steven Rattner says the gap in pay between workers and auto executives is "unconscionable."
Drew Angerer
/
Getty Images
Steven Rattner says the gap in pay between workers and auto executives is "unconscionable."

He was the lead adviser for the Obama administration when the government bailed out auto companies in 2009 — following the global financial crisis. Now, he is weighing in on the union strikes against the big 3 American automakers.

Who is he? Steven Rattner.

  • In 2009, the U.S. government stepped in and bailed out struggling auto companies, forcing G.M. and Chrysler to restructure.
  • In that negotiation, the United Auto Workers union — the one striking now — accepted concessions to make the money work out.
  • Rattner was the lead auto advisor to the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry in that process, which led to his nickname in the press as the "car czar."


What's the big deal?

  • On Friday, the UAW expanded its strike against the "big three" American car companies, by adding two additional assembly plants, and thousands more people walked off their jobs.
  • You can dive deeper into the background here.
  • UAW President Shawn Fain said: "We gave up a lot [in 2009] and the companies were in trouble, but now they're doing incredibly well and guess what? We should be doing incredibly well too."
  • In a New York Timesopinion article published Sept. 20, Rattner argued that he would like to see auto workers paid more — but that he believed the UAW was "overplaying its hand."


Want more on this story? Listen to the Consider This episode about President Biden on the picket line.


United Auto Workers members strike the General Motors Lansing Delta Assembly Plant on Friday in Lansing, Michigan.
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
United Auto Workers members strike the General Motors Lansing Delta Assembly Plant on Friday in Lansing, Michigan.

What is Rattner's argument?

In an interview with All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang on Friday, Rattner shared how he thinks these organizing efforts might play out.

On how this could backfire on unions:

And why he thinks those demands are unrealistic:

On addressing the gap in compensation between workers and auto executives:

So, what now?

  • The running total of striking UAW workers has hit about 25,000 with this expansion on Friday.
  • It comes amid other instances of labor organizing in the U.S., including by UPS drivers, airline pilots, Vegas hospitality workers, and those in the entertainment industry.


Learn more:

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Manuela López Restrepo
Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.