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Auto workers face neocons at the bargaining table

Published Jul 4, 2007 11:43 PM

What has three heads and drops bombs?

If you follow news about the auto industry, the three heads would be a dead giveaway. Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of Greek mythology, is the name and mascot of the Wall Street hedge fund buying Chrysler. The more we learn about the firm, however, the more we might conclude that the modern-day Cerberus is not the guardian of hell but its more famous horned denizen.

As is often stated in the media, former U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow is the firm’s chair and former vice president and spelling blunderer Dan Quayle its Global Operations chair. Yet Quayle did not leave politics; he is one of the 25 elite signers of the mission statement of the neocon think tank, the Project for the New American Century. Their document proclaims that: “We need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future. ... We need to accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.”

Other signers include Dick Cheney and such now-disgraced figures as I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld is an investor in Cerberus, which is rumored to require a minimum outlay of $1 million to join the club. Cerberus, in turn, is a major contributor to Republican candidates, although it also funds Democrats such as Joe Lieberman.

These contributions don’t come without strings. MCI, partially owned by Cerberus, was a subcontractor in an $8.8 billion project to build a secure computer network for the Navy and Marines. When MCI was in danger of being dumped by the Navy, Cerberus held a fundraiser for California Representative Jerry Lewis, who was then chair of the House Appropriations Committee. One hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars later, MCI was kept on the project. Among those investigating the scandal was Carol Lam, later fired by Alberto Gonzales.

Cerberus owns Netco, a Navy supplier, and IAP Worldwide Services, a major provider of logistics support to the U.S. Army in Iraq. IAP had the contract to run the privatized Walter Reed military hospital, whose shoddy care to wounded Iraq veterans has inflamed public outrage. It was IAP who mismanaged the delivery of desperately needed ice during the Katrina disaster.

Cerberus’ paid lobbyist, former top Quayle aide Craig Whitney, formed a political action committee, Improve America PAC, almost exclusively with Cerberus funds. The first lobbyist Cerberus contracted with, Patton Boggs, made available the services of Laurence Harris, a former Federal Communications Commission staffer who would join MCI’s board of directors; retired Marine Colonel John Garrett; and Marcus Dunn, a former aide to two members of the House Armed Services Committee. Former Utah Republican Senator Jake Garn was paid $410,000 in 2003 to lobby for Cerberus.

Cerberus also has ties to Washington’s closest military ally. The firm owns Israel’s second largest bank, Leumi, and collaborated with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the privatization of Israel’s state banking system.

It’s not only Chrysler workers who have this monster to contend with; Cerberus is now looking at buying Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford. The firm may also decide not to withdraw from the purchase of Delphi. Cerberus is buying Tower Automotive and owns other auto parts companies.

Not inclined to be left out, Bush family friend the Carlyle Group has just arranged to buy Allison Transmission from General Motors.

As the military faction of the U.S. ruling class sinks its teeth into the auto industry, it’s clear the UAW has a quite a formidable foe to negotiate with—but as the Iraqi people have shown, it is a foe that is not unbeatable.

Martha Grevatt has worked at the Chrysler stamping plant in Twinsburg, Ohio, for 20 years and serves on the executive board of her local union.

E-mail: [email protected]