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UAW, Sierra Club join to oppose fuel proposal


At a rare intersection in the sprawling debate over jobs and environmental protection, the United Auto Workers and the Sierra Club joined forces this week against proposed vehicle fuel economy standards.

The seeds of the unlikely relationship germinated on the Murch Elementary School playground in Washington, D.C., where the children of lobbyists for both groups played. There, their fathers -- entrenched on opposite sides of most issues during the day -- talked policy and politics.

The article opposes new weight-based fuel economy standards for trucks that the Sierra Club believes will lead to more pollution and the UAW fears will eventually cost its workers their jobs.

It was a startling alliance between groups that have tussled on a number of issues in recent years, most notably on how strict to make fuel economy standards.

"We've had an ongoing debate on any number of other issues," said Reuther, nephew of the late Detroit labor leader Walter Reuther. "This one we're united on."

Becker and Reuther have regularly crossed paths for years in the halls of Congress. But in the late 1990s, their children began attending the same school, and they became friends.

Two years ago, they sat down to hash out issues -- eventually agreeing to disagree on most.

Then came the fuel economy proposal.

It would create multiple truck weight classes, requiring each class to average a certain miles per gallon. That would replace the current standard, which allows a mix of light and heavy trucks with differing fuel economy numbers, as long as they average 20.7 miles per gallon.

The Sierra Club says the Bush plan will drive up gas consumption -- and pollution. Automakers could add a few hundred pounds to certain trucks to bump them into weight classes that allow them to guzzle more gas.

Enter the UAW, fearing that the change will discourage the production of small trucks, which are important because they drive down the average fuel consumption needed to meet federal standards.

Both groups say they believe the plan would eventually be applied to cars, giving incentive to the automakers to make fewer small cars, or manufacture them in other countries.

More than 100,000 jobs at six small-car plants in Michigan, Ohio, Delaware, Illinois and Tennessee could be at risk, the UAW contends.

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Both groups are opposed to the regulations for greatly differing reasons. The UAW is one of the worst things ever to happen to the auto industry. It's absolutely causing havoc on the ability of Ford and GM to modernize their factories, lower production when the laws of supply & demand require it, and, oh by the way, to produce a new f-body vehicle (CAW is responsible for that, technically).

I'm not anti-union, but I am opposed to unions hurting their parent companies beyond reasonable measures to keep the workers' rights intact. If that made any sense...
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