DETROIT (Feb. 23, 2009) — If Ron Bloom gets his way, everyone will sacrifice. Last week, President Barack Obama appointed Bloom to help restructure General Motors Corp. and Chrysler L.L.C.
Bloom, 53, has resigned as special assistant to the president of the United Steelworkers union to take the job at the U.S. Treasury Department.
Bloom has negotiated restructuring deals for more than 50 companies, getting major concessions from unions and companies.
The unions accepted job cuts, and in one case a union offered a 20 percent pay cut. Meanwhile, corporations typically agreed to protect retiree health care and pensions, modernized plants, offered ownership stakes to workers and accepted management job cuts.
Bloom is not giving interviews, a United Steelworkers spokesman said. But in a 2006 speech reported by The Wall Street Journal, Bloom said restructuring is like "dentist-chair bargaining." The patient "grabs the dentist by the b—-s and says, 'Now let's not hurt each other.' "
Under Bloom's guidance, the Steelworkers' concessions ensured that the same percentage of management and worker positions were cut, said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers.
"If the ratio was four workers to one boss, if we had four less people, then they had to have one less boss," Gerard told Automotive News. "The people that left (retained their) dignity and good benefits as well."
Bloom was raised in New York in a pro-union family, which included a schoolteacher mother and unionized relatives. After working for the Service Employees International Union, he got an MBA from Harvard University because he thought unions lacked business smarts, he said in a 1996 interview in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
From 1985 to 1990, he worked as an investment banker with Lazard Freres & Co., which specializes in mergers, acquisitions and corporate restructuring, before co-founding the investment banking firm Keilin and Bloom.
There Bloom focused on transactions with employees as stakeholders, including some involving the UAW. He helped employees gain a majority stake at United Airlines and aided pilots in receiving stock for their concessions at Northwest Airlines.
'One set of facts'
In Washington, Bloom will use the same pragmatic approach he has used throughout his negotiating career, said Eugene Keilin, Bloom's former partner at Keilin and Bloom.
"There may be a union view of the facts and a bank view of the facts and a management view of the facts, but there's only one set of facts," Keilin said.
"In order to get a deal done, all parties have to participate. And the only way you're going to get them to participate is if a deal is seen as fair."