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Pres In Motor City; UAW Leader Supported Me and I Bailed Out the Auto Industry - -You're Welcome !

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by   Samuel Morris               Godwin Morris Laurenzi Bloomfield

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Obama recalls UAW president's early political support

 Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press

Today, Obama thanked UAW President Dennis Williams for being among the first labor leaders to support the president's political campaigns

(Photo: Romain Blanquart Detroit Free Press)

President Barack Obama made just a few casual remarks about UAW President Dennis Williams on Wednesday, but they were revealing.

Obama and Williams have a relationship that goes back to the days when Obama was running for the U.S. Senate.

"When I was running for the U.S. Senate, and nobody knew who I was and nobody could pronounce my name, the regional leader of the UAW in Illinois was a guy named Dennis Williams," Obama said in his opening remarks Wednesday in Detroit. "He was my friend and supporter before just about anybody else out there."

Williams was among the first labor leaders to endorse Obama in 2007 during the Iowa caucuses at a time when Hillary Clinton was thought to be the nearly automatic Democratic candidate for president. Williams was the UAW's director of Region 4 from 2001 until 2011 when he was elected UAW Secretary Treasurer.

Today, Williams rode with Obama after the president toured the North American International Show at Cobo Center.

"I just want to say how proud I am to call him a friend," Obama said.

After visiting the Detroit auto show , the president and his motorcade drove about 2.5 miles to speak at the at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources -- a building built in 2001 that overlooks the Detroit River.

The White House said It selected the site because it served as a symbolic setting to highlight the partnership between the Detroit Three, the UAW and the U.S. government, calling it "the national headquarters of the joint relationship between UAW and GM."

The UAW and the Detroit Three also reached an agreement on a new, four-year labor agreement last fall that commits the companies to billions in new investments and thousands of new jobs.

Throughout his speech on Wednesday, Obama sought to remind UAW workers of his support of organized labor and his willingness to support autoworkers at a time when few others thought the industry it was worth saving.

Weeks before Obama took office Congress rejected an auto loans package after many Republicans and some Democrats opposed it.

U.S. President George W. Bush, with just 12 days left in his term, approved $17.5 billion in federal loans for General Motors and Chrysler. But those loans were viewed as a merely a bridge that would keep Detroit's automakers afloat until Obama took office.

The Obama administration provided an additional $57 billion in taxpayer support and assembled an automotive task forced that helped to shepherd the two automakers through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"We had a choice to make, with the economy in a free fall, there were no private companies, no private investors, who were going to step up and take a chance on you," Obama said. "It wasn't popular."

Today, GM, Ford and Chrysler are profitable. The U.S. automotive industry sold a record 17.47 new cars and trucks and most of the auto plants that stayed open are now running on three shifts.

"I could not be prouder of this industry and the road we've traveled together," Obama said.

Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or bsnavely@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely. 

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50 N. Front St., Memphis TN  38103

901 528 1702    901 949 1144

 

established yesterday - subscriptions good until tomorrow - published as news breaks

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