Remarks on Signing Into Law H.R. 5860, the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979
Topics: Chrysler Corporation
President Jimmy Carter
January 7, 1980
THE PRESIDENT. This legislation, the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979, is extremely important not only for Chrysler and its employees, its dealers, its suppliers, not only important for Detroit but for all the people of our country and, I think, almost every State in our Nation, in fact, almost every community.
This is legislation which has been passed after very careful consideration, but with extreme speed. It shows in vivid terms that when our Nation does have a genuine pressing economic problem, that my own administration and the Congress can act expeditiously. We had a lot of good help in the Congress. It would be a mistake for me to try to name all those who were directly involved. Congressman Blanchard, Congressman Moorhead, the Speaker, and many others in the House, Senators Riegle, Levin, Senator Tom Eagleton—who particularly wanted to be here, but has to be in London today—Majority Leader Byrd, and others have been extremely helpful in the Congress.
In addition, of course, the Chrysler officials, officials of the UAW, Lane Kirkland, representing AFL-CIO, Mayor Coleman Young from Detroit have met here at the White House on several occasions to try to hammer out the terms of this legislation, working very closely with Secretary of Treasury Bill Miller.
This legislation does not violate the principle of letting a competitive free enterprise system in our country function on its own, because Chrysler is unique in its present circumstances. It has the most diversified work force of any corporation in America. Its suppliers and its dealers and its manufacturing plants touch almost every major community in our country.
It's important to have Chrysler preserved as a viable, competitive entity, not only to protect jobs involved but to protect the competitive nature of the American automobile manufacturing industry in its competition with foreign suppliers and in the provision of good products at a competitive price for the American consumer.
This legislation will permit the Federal Government to guarantee $1 1/2 billion in loans to Chrysler from private sources, provided an additional $2 billion in commitments or concessions can be arranged by Chrysler for the financing of its operations. This has to be an entire package. This legislation is only the beginning.
The loan guarantees will not be made by the Federal Government unless the other contributions or concessions are given to Chrysler by its own owners, stockholders, administrators, employees, dealers, suppliers, foreign and domestic financial institutions, and by State and local governments. It's got to be a package deal, and everyone understands this. And because they have already probed for the best possible interrelationship to form a team to protect Chrysler's viability, I believe there's a good chance that this package will be put together.
With this legislation, 200,000 American jobs can be preserved, in manufacturing, in suppliers to Chrysler, and through the sale of Chrysler products.
I'm very grateful for the help that all those assembled here and many others have given in the preparation of this legislation. And following my own comments, I would like to have the representatives of Chrysler Corporation, Dour Fraser, representing the UAW, and maybe one or two Members of the Congress to add a word to what I've said.
It's an honor for me, and a pleasure as President, to take this action, which I think is in the best interest of our country.
[At this point, the President signed the bill.]
MR. FRASER. Thank you.
I might say that last Friday that we closed what we called the Dodge Main Plant in the city of Detroit. They ran off the last car there. And in over a span of 65 years, we produced over 39 million cars in that plant. And I think this legislation will, perhaps, minimize the possibility of that ever happening again, because it's a traumatic experience for the workers who worked in that plant.
Last Saturday evening, we concluded the renegotiation of our contract with the Chrysler Corporation, and that renegotiating resulted in the Chrysler workers, who belong to the UAW, giving up $246 million in wages and fringe benefits over the term of the contract. And that, added to the concessions we made originally, that results in each Chrysler worker giving up, in 3 years, $4,500 each that they will receive below that which is received by their counterparts in GM or Ford. I would hope now that the other groups that have a responsibility under this legislation would step forward.
I want to thank, in behalf of the Chrysler workers and the communities in which they live, the President of the United States. I don't think this legislation would have been possible without his assistance. I want to thank the Members of Congress and particularly Senator Riegle and Congressman Brodhead, who gave leadership in this legislative effort. And finally, I want to thank the other groups who were of great assistance and particularly the AFL-CIO.
THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Iacocca.
MR. IACOCCA. Well, thank you very much.
I want to echo what Doug said. I want to start off by thanking the President of the United States and Vice President Mondale and the whole Congress for not only putting what I think is a—it's a tough package, but it's a very fair package, together for us. And I say it in behalf, really, of 2 million people—I think I've heard from most of them—2 million people in the Chrysler family. Really, about 600,000 jobs have been preserved.
I think the greatest thing it's done for all of us—we start a new Chrysler Corporation today—is that from the day the legislation was passed, that's about December 21, why, the consumers of this country accepted it as a vote of confidence, because we had one of our biggest 10-day sales periods in history. And we're back to almost our 10 percent of the market, which is an important part of this package.
I'd be remiss if I didn't thank the UAW, who, through all of this, were most cooperative. And speaking as an executive of a company, why, a concession of $462.5 million is very difficult for the workers to accept in these days of roaring inflation. But they've contributed; they've come to the party.
I'm hopeful, as the President just outlined, that this is an integrated package, a complete package. And the hard part starts now, because we have to come up with $2 billion. But with this vote of confidence, I'm extremely confident that we're going to put this package together. We're not only going to save the 600,000 jobs; hopefully, we're going to add to them in the next couple of years.
And I'm grateful to everyone concerned with this—the leadership on the part of Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Moorhead and Senators Riegle and Levin and many, many others, too numerous to mention.
This is just a great day for a lot of people who work very hard in Detroit. And we're going to make the most of it, and we're going to merit the confidence of everybody in this room, given about 6 months, a year of hard work.
Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. Congressman Blanchard.
REPRESENTATIVE BLANCHARD. Thank you, Mr. President.
We, all of us from Michigan, because this issue was survival for us, want to thank you and your administration.
In particular, from the Congress, I think all of us from Michigan, who pulled very hard together as a disciplined unit on this measure, owe a great debt of gratitude to people who do not live in Michigan or represent the State of Michigan: on my right, Congressman William Moorhead, Congressman Stewart McKinney of Connecticut, the Speaker of the House, Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., and the majority leader of the House of Representatives. Members of Congress from throughout the country went to bat to meet a very critical economic problem, which the President has outlined. We, all of us from Michigan, are grateful.
THE PRESIDENT. Congressman Moorhead, would you like to say just a word?
REPRESENTATIVE MOORHEAD. Mr. President, I think this signing of this legislation shows that government, labor, and industry can work together. And I think that this is probably more important than the legislation itself, although Doug Fraser and Lee Iacocca might not agree with it. But I think we've got to realize that we're competing with our friends, and not so much friends abroad, and we ought to be working together as Americans. And I think this legislation that you signed is a sample of that.
And as you know, Mr. President, it's so tough that no other corporation is going to come back to us very willingly. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Don.
SENATOR RIEGLE. Thank you, Mr. President.
On the Senate side of the Congress, and speaking in behalf of my colleagues, I want to also thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership and your willingness to support what clearly was difficult legislation at this time, but vitally important legislation to the country. And I think the willingness of this administration—yourself, those who serve with you, Secretary Miller, his staff, and others—to put this legislation forward, to give us a chance to take it forward in the Congress, is something that all of us here deeply appreciate.
In the Senate, apart from Senator Byrd, our majority leader, who was critical to this issue, and on both sides of the aisle-Senator Levin from Michigan and Senator Lugar from Indiana and Senator Bayh from Indiana, Senator Eagleton, many others—the effort to work this legislation through the process, when we were coming down to the last hours of this Congress, was really a remarkable piece of work by all the folks in this room and many others in both the House and the Senate.
And finally, I want to say, both for Michigan and for the country, that those of us who represent areas where major Chrysler facilities and job concentrations are found, that we appreciate, more than we can say in words, the vote of confidence and the chance that the rest of the country, the President, and the other Members of Congress from around the United States have given us.
And speaking in behalf of our State, we intend to meet our half of that responsibility and respond to this challenge, and that means that workers and managers and all the other parties of interest are going to have to make superhuman efforts to see that we take this opportunity and make it work. We intend to do that, and we will do that. We're just deeply grateful for this opportunity to have this chance.
It's an opportunity, in turn, to do something good for the country. We've got plenty of problems these days, but this is a chance to make our country stronger, and I'm confident we will.
Thank you very much.
SENATOR LEVIN. Perhaps I can just add a personal note, Mr. President. The passing of this bill not only shows great leadership on your part but it also shows great courage. We know that this bill was not popular in many parts of the country. It was right for the whole country because of what would have happened to the Treasury had Chrysler fallen. But it did take great courage as well as leadership on your part, because it did lack great popularity in many parts of the country.
I want to thank you, on behalf of everybody that Don and I represent as well as on behalf of others who are represented here today and not represented here today, for that courage and for that leadership.
THE PRESIDENT. I might point out that I represent Michigan, too. [Laughter]
I might point out very quickly that this was a joint commitment by both Democrats and Republicans. And I would like to call on Stewart and also Senator Lugar to say a word.
REPRESENTATIVE McKINNEY. Well, Mr. President, I'd like to thank you, too.
I think there were days when we felt that we'd never make it. We did make it, and I think it shows that we can work together when the country is faced with a crisis that has to be resolved. And though there were doubters and people who would not support us, I think the end vote showed that we realized what was at stake—our competitive situation; the entire economy of this country; but far more important, I think, all of the people that we would have hurt, up and down the United States, had we not passed this legislation. And I appreciate every bit of your help.
Thank you very much.
SENATOR LUGAR. Mr. President, I appreciate this opportunity simply to say, I think this was very humane and compassionate legislation. It was important for the country. We appreciate your leadership and those who were involved, especially, I think, from the United Auto Workers, because their sacrifice has been enormous.
I go along with the thought that that sacrifice needs to be met by the banking community, by those in the investment community of America, and I'm certain we're all hopeful that the inspiration of this signing will push that along. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. As we go to the bankers now for their portion, I'm glad we have something to loan in addition to compassion. [Laughter]
I might say that this legislation is in the best interest of our country, not just because of the jobs saved but because of the potential adverse effect on the Federal budget itself if Chrysler should cease its operations, not only with the rapidly increasing unemployment rate but also with the substantial payments that would have been required by the Federal Government in the guarantees of pension funds, in unemployment compensation and welfare payments that might have resulted.
So, in my judgment it is a good investment for the Federal Government as well as for Chrysler, its employees, its dealers, its suppliers, and the communities involved.
I'm very grateful that this spirit of teamwork has been exemplified. Bill Miller represented our administration and held the whole package together. And I particularly want to express my thanks to him, because he's a tough, competent businessman and a good representative of the interests of the American taxpayers as Secretary of the Treasury.
This is, as Bill has pointed out earlier, tough legislation. It's not the kind of legislation that other companies would rush forward and ask to be passed for them. It protects the interests of the American taxpayer. It also protects the soundness of the American free enterprise system.
And the nature of the entire package is still a very difficult challenge for us all. I believe if we can see the same kind of cooperation and teamwork, however, in the next few weeks as we have seen in the past few weeks, we'll be successful in saving Chrysler and benefiting our great Nation at the same time.
Thank you very much.
I only have two regrets, I might say. One is that Coleman Young, the mayor of Detroit, is not here, because he really worked hard on this legislation, and the second regret is that we could not have had this signing ceremony in Detroit. It would have been good.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 1:32 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Douglas Fraser is president of the United Auto Workers, and Lee Iacocca is chairman of the Chrysler Corporation.
As enacted, H.R. 5860 is Public Law 96-185, approved January 7.
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