DETROIT -- A group of UAW members that wanted to launch an employee buyout bid for the Chrysler group lashed out today against DaimlerChrysler executives and the UAW.
DaimlerChrysler announced this morning it will sell Chrysler to private equity giant Cerberus Capital Management. Blackstone Group, another private equity concern, and another well-funded group led by Magna International Inc. also were bidding on Chrysler, along with Las Vegas billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement this morning that the Cerberus deal is in the "best interest of our membership."
Despite their status as a long-shot bidder, workers at Chrysler's Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, had been trying for weeks to get a seat at the bidding table.
"Daimler and the UAW orchestrated a delay campaign to keep the employees from making a bid," said Michele Mauder, president of the Chrysler Employee Buyout Committee, in a statement. "They delayed responding or didn't respond at all to push the timing of our actions back."
The Chrysler Employee Buyout Committee recently had hired investment bankers Morpheus Capital Advisors to help formulate a bid but never received serious interest from DaimlerChrysler. Mauder says the group will fight for the chance to make an offer.
The employees had earlier met with representatives of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp., and agreed to consider cooperation.
Mauder spoke face-to-face with Tracinda adviser Jerry York, a source told Automotive News. The two sides were in contact up until Sunday.
In her statement, she criticized DaimlerChrysler's business sense and Gettelfinger's leadership.
"Daimler is basically paying $650 million to get out from under the pension liabilities in this deal," Mauder said.
Later, she added: "The UAW has not kept its word to the UAW membership, and the sale is shameful. Public statements from the CAW and UAW strongly objected to any deal that included private equity. Apparently," she said, Gettelfinger "has learned how to speak out of both sides of his mouth."
Gettlefinger dismissed Mauder's complaints when he addressed the media today.
"Perhaps she should talk to DaimlerChrysler," Gettlefinger said during a press conference at UAW's Solidarity House in Detroit. "I didn't put anyone's offer on the table."
He added that he received communication from the employee group, but the business plan was "sketchy."
The UAW represents about 50,000 Chrysler employees. The Canadian Auto Workers represents another 10,500 workers.
Local CAW officials in Canada say they are waiting for more information -- and CAW President Buzz Hargrove's meeting with Chrysler officials -- before passing judgment.
"It's too soon to tell; there's not enough detail out there," said Gary Taylor, president of Local 1498, which represents office, clerical and engineering workers in Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario, plant. "There's far too much unknown as to how this will play out."
Vince Bailey, CAW Local 1285 president, said: "Most union members are in wait-and-see. There's been so much printed in the paper, so many companies mentioned, nothing confirmed. It almost a matter of what paper you read."
It's a tough situation for members, he added.
Bailey told Automotive News: "It's very, very difficult when you don't know where your future lies or who it lies with."
You may e-mail Jack Herman at [email protected]