SPRING HILL, TENN. — As the workers and residents of this small town that launched the Saturn automobile see it, there are several villains in the collapse of the automakers' rescue plan.
But what stuns many in this place defined by the General Motors auto plant and its 4,200 workers is that no person played a larger role in the demise of autoworker hopes than their own Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is now regarded by some here with the kind of disdain reserved for traitors. Corker emerged as one of the leading critics of the rescue plan passed by the House. He lashed into the carmaker chief executives when they came to Washington looking for help. And it was Corker's alternative proposal, which was a plan that would have been tougher on union workers, that ultimately failed.
In a dozen interviews with workers, many suspected that he only feigned interest in rescuing Detroit's Big Three. Instead, they say, he wants to crush GM and its union to benefit foreign automakers, such Nissan and Volkswagen, who have opened or are opening nonunionized plants in the state.
"We're deeply disappointed in Sen. Corker — that's the official statement," said Mike Herron, union chief at the GM plant here. "But actually, my members want to choke him."
The anger of the workers and the harshness of their words reflect the larger tension between the old Detroit-based domestic auto industry, with its unionized work force, and the new transplant industry in the nonunion South. Emotions were stoked by the announcement GM will halt production at the plant for January and the first week of February.