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While many see the automotive industry crisis as an opportunity to help address our clean energy needs, conservatives see an opportunity to make workers earn less.

The Examiner editorial page claims:

The basic reason why Asian automakers make money on their U.S. plants and the Big Three don’t is because the latter must pay union wages that average $60,000 annually, plus gold-pated pension and health care benefits that double that amount per worker.

Left unmentioned is that Asian got ahead of the curve on building energy-efficient cars while Big 3 resisted higher fuel-efficiency standards, and Asian countries have universal health care which lightens the load on businesses.

But mentioned is that this supposedly lavish union pay package gives auto workers a whopping $60,000 a year. How dare these auto workers try to raise families on slightly above the median household income!

Yet New York Times columnist Tom Friedman jumps on the union-bashing bandwagon. The Wall Street Journal characterizes the Big 3 automakers as “money-losing, unionized manufacturers,” which threatens their “viability.”

Jonathan Tasini has a few words for the wage-haters:

Now, some will say: well, why should UAW members get such “rich” contracts? Let’s first get real. UAW members are not living large, though compared to Wal-Mart workers they are better off.

And its not UAW pensions that are a problem. Its CEO pensions, for example, that are weighing down the auto companies, particularly GM.

But here is the larger point: if you tear up union contracts and cut wages and benefits, how the hell do our brilliant leaders think the consumer-driven economy will work? People are totally maxed out on their credit cards. Home equity cash is gone. If you cut wages, exactly how will 70 percent of the economy–consumer spending–be generated?

Any taxpayer funded-bailout should reap rewards for taxpayers, namely by helping us rapidly move to a clean energy economy.

Kneecapping taxpaying workers is not a good use of our taxpayer dollars.

UPDATE: Digby has more on the latest wave of union-bashing.

UPDATE 2: Tasini has more details on what those fat cat UAW workers actually make in salary and benefits.

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