For any labor leader -- especially the president of the UAW -- it must have sounded like the kiss of death.
Last summer, the Detroit 3 asked Ron Gettelfinger to accept labor contracts that included job cuts, health care concessions and steep wage reductions for newly hired workers.
To his credit, Gettelfinger was visionary enough to see that these unpalatable concessions were needed to save General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. Just as important, he convinced the UAW's rank-and-file that the concessions were necessary.
For that, Automotive News has named Ron Gettelfinger its Person of the Year.
This year has been the toughest of Gettelfinger's professional career. The 63-year-old UAW leader had to balance the Detroit 3's need for cost relief with a desire to protect 50 years of economic gains for members.
For the most part, he prevailed. The UAW made a historic deal on retiree health care and wage reductions for new workers that eventually will save the Detroit 3 about $8 billion a year. In return, the union saved nearly a dozen endangered assembly plants.