Automaker bailout discussed, local workers impacted

January 26, 2010 8:25:52 AM PST
An emergency bailout is in the works for the country's auto makers.They're losing billions a month. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants the current Congress to pass the bail out quickly.

It looks like another major bailout is coming.. The big three automakers say they are victims of the credit crisis, too, and without a quick infusion of cash they could go under.

One former Ford worker is already paying a steep price.

"To be laid off is a let down -- the layoff letdown," said Darnell Williams, laid-off Ford worker.

Williams is one of the tens of thousands of U.S. autoworkers already laid off, and there are more to come.

How many more may depend on how quickly Congress acts on a bailout.

Williams was laid off two weeks ago from his assembly line job at Chicago's Ford plant on Torrence Avenue, where the company eliminated an entire shift of 800 jobs.

"It was degrading, depressing to a certain degree, but I keep my head up," Williams said.

With a Ford Mustang in the driveway, you could say Williams grew up in a Ford family. His father worked at the Torrence Avenue plant for 32 years. His brother did, too, for 15 years.

But now, no one's future in the American auto industry seems secure as Congress wrestles with whether to bail out the big three.

The question is -- can America afford not to?

According to the Center for Automotive Research, the bailout could cost taxpayers up to $75 billion.

But letting a big automaker fail could cost the American economy $175 billion in lost income and taxes the first year alone.

"If you lose one of the big guys, GM or Ford, that could cascade down the supply basin and really bring the entire industry down," said David Cole, Center for Automotive Research.

From dealers to part makers to ad agencies, the fear is as many as two-and-a-half million jobs could be lost.

But critics say American automakers made too many bad decisions, especially with gas guzzling SUVs, and hardly deserve a bailout.

"We don't have all these blank checks to write out," said Roben Farzad, Businessweek. "Everybody is hurting."

But Congress does appear ready to act now after prodding from president-elect Barack Obama, who Monday, urged President Bush to help the industry.

Pelosi isn't saying how large of a bailout she would support, but the money would come with conditions, including requiring U.S. automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars.