Retirees who lost pensions say auto bailout wasn’t big success

Two Republican congressmen and three salaried former Delphi employees who lost substantial portions of their pensions and retirement benefits during the company’s bankruptcy appeared in Springfield on Friday to challenge the Obama campaign’s characterization of the auto industry bailout as an Ohio success story.

Influenced by the United Auto Workers Union, General Motors restored the pensions and benefits of Delphi’s unionized work force as part of the bailout, but 20,000 salaried employees saw their pensions and retirement benefits slashed, a responsibility GM maintained was Delphi’s.

Three years into a lawsuit attempting to restore the benefits for salaried workers, “I still do not understand how two sets of employees, working for the same company in the identical situation, could be treated so distinctly different by our own government,” said Tom Rose, who worked for 30 years for GM and nine for Delphi before his 2008 retirement.

Asked for comment, Jessica Kershaw, press secretary for Obama for America in Ohio, accused Gov. Mitt Romney’s allies of “trying to rewrite history” about the auto bailout, proving “he’ll say anything to win votes.”

“The fact is that when the American auto industry and its workers were on their knees, Mitt Romney turned his back,” she said, and advocated letting Detroit go bankrupt.

Tom Green, who worked a combined 36 years for GM and Delphi said the non-union employees were “left hung out to dry, on purpose” for political reasons.

Four days before the election day, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, called it the “untold story of the auto bailout” in which the administration “picked winners and losers” and manipulated and thwarted the normal bankruptcy process.

The president “owes an answer” to 20,000 workers who lost their pension, he said, and has refused to be transparent about the process.

Turner was joined by U.S. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, who urged a vote for Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney, saying Americans “don’t like this cronyism that’s coming out of the Obama administration.”

The Delphi employees also blamed Delphi and GM executives for failing to protect salaried workers’ interests as the union protected its members’ interests.

“I feel betrayed first by GM,” said Rose. “Then to be treated this way by the current administration …. Why are I and my family unworthy of my earned pension?”

“Let me be clear that we do not begrudge the union employees keeping their earned benefits and pensions intact,” Green added. “They earned it, but so did we. And because we did not have the political connections that the unions did, we were unjustly chosen as losers in the GM bankruptcy process.”

Marlane Bengry, who worked a combined 31 years for GM and Delphi, said that receiving a letter that she lost her health care benefits was “a huge shock” and seemed “bizarre.”

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