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Gingrich Blames Autoworkers Union for Uncompetitive Work Rules

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, at a campaign stop today in Des Moines, Iowa, blamed the United Auto Workers union for hindering U.S. manufacturing.

In response to a question about jobs leaving the U.S., Gingrich, who faces his first test as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3, touched on the automotive industry.

“We have a very vibrant auto industry in places like BMW, which now manufactures in the U.S. and exports worldwide,” he said, before naming some other automakers with nonunion plants assembling vehicles in the U.S. “Mercedes, Honda, Nissan. Where it’s a real problem is the UAW.”

The UAW represents hourly workers at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, the U.S. automaker majority-owned by Fiat SpA. Michele Martin, a spokeswoman for the Detroit-based union, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking a comment.

“It’s a work-rules problem; it’s not an hourly cost problem,” he told a Rotary Club breakfast meeting. “You can’t have continuous improvement if you’re not allowed to constantly modify and improve.”

Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, based in Munich, makes cars and sport-utility vehicles in South Carolina, and Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler AG assembles Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Alabama. Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co. has vehicle plants in Ohio, Indiana and Alabama, while Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan Motor Co. has assembly plants in the Tennessee and Mississippi.

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