A number of key Republican senators who led to the defeat of the recent auto loan package have foreign-owned automotive companies in their states. Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, has emerged as Detroit’s leading nemesis during two sets of hearings. He seems to be everywhere these days giving interviews and his sage opinion on the Big Three. And no wonder, his state has benefited to the tune of billions of dollars brought to the state through foreign car manufacturing and industry.
Almost every foreign auto factory that has opened since the 1990s has sprouted below the Mason-Dixon Line. Two of the three auto plants under construction also are in the South. Plants typically establish their roots in what is known as the auto corridor — roughly a 200-mile-wide stretch that runs from Michigan to Alabama.
One primary reason for locating in the southern states is the lack of unionization. Unions increase overall costs at plants, thus foreign automakers are drawn to the South where unionization is not mandatory and where workers have resisted calls to join voluntarily. Unionization in the North requires that everyone must join.
No foreign assembly plants are unionized except for a few joint-ventures: the ones that started as projects between domestic and foreign companies.
Since the 1990s, Senator Shelby’s state, Alabama, has won three assembly plants from Honda, Mercedes-Benz, and Hyundai and an engine plant built by Toyota, as well as numerous investments by parts makers. They have been worth $3.8 billion to Alabama, or one-tenth the amount spent in the United States by foreign companies, according to the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing foreign car companies.
Another opponent from the South, Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee also has been a Detroit critic. Again, no surprise since his state is home to Nissan’s North American headquarters, a Nissan plant, and a promised Volkswagen factory.
Although southern senators have been more vocal than many other detractors of the auto loan package, the north has its share of naysayers and one of them is right here in Indiana. Representative Mike Pence – an extreme right-wing Republican conservative representing Indiana’s 6th district – stated during the opening of Honda’s new assembly plant in Greensburg, Indiana, that he would rather see the U.S. automakers file for bankruptcy than receive taxpayer money.
It seems Pence is blissfully unaware of the fact that the Third District, just to his north, has a GM plant which provides a tremendous amount of employment. I would dare say some of those employees come from Pence’s district and take their incomes back to their homes to be put into the 6th district’s economic stream of commerce. His righteous attitude is simply ludicrous.
Perhaps all along the efforts haven’t been to bust the unions – at least entirely – but to dictate what the working wage for the domestic auto industry should be compared to the foreign companies. With the southern senators spewing their constant harangue against the Big Three, they have staked out their support of the foreign auto industry while forsaking the domestic industry – all for the almighty dollars flowing into their states.
Breaking ground at the Greensburg, Indiana plant