This report tells us that the Obama administration is pushing G.M. toward a “surgical bankruptcy.” But then we get this tidbit:
President Obama, who was elected with strong backing from labor, remained concerned about potential risk to G.M.’s pension plan and wants to avoid harming workers, these people said.
So how exactly does this bankruptcy work? It doesn’t sound much like the standard-fare bankruptcy where an apolitical judge with the help of a referee cuts back the creditors, throws out the labor agreement, and constructs a reasonable contract enabling the company to return to profitability. Instead, the Obama administration is working hard — still — to get the bondholders to take a hit. It hopes to pre-set the terms of a “deal” rather than leave everyone, especially the union, to face the bankruptcy judge.
Maybe the stepped-up talk of bankruptcy will force the parties, including the UAW, to reach a deal. But so long as the president keeps sending signals that the UAW is too big to fail it is unlikely that the union will take the necessary steps to redo its labor agreement. Not until the administration sends an unequivocal message that the UAW needs to refashion its agreement — just as would be required in an ordinary bankruptcy — will there be hope for G.M.’s survival.