The clash with the Big Three automakers shows a more confrontational union for auto workers as the strike deadline approaches

DETROIT (AP) — 46% pay increase. 32 hours per week with 40 hours of pay. Restoring traditional pensions

The demands the more combative United Auto Workers union has placed on GM, Stellantis and Ford — demands the UAW president called “bold” — move it closer to striking when its contract expires on September 14.

The automakers, which make billions in profits, have rejected the UAW’s wish list. They argue that its demands are unrealistic at a time of fierce competition from Tesla and lower-wage foreign automakers as the world shifts from internal combustion engines to electric cars. A wide gap between the two sides could mean a strike against one or more automakers, which could push up already inflated car prices.

The potential strike of 146,000 UAW members comes against the backdrop of… It increasingly encouraged American unions of all kinds. The number of strikes and threats of strikes continues to increase With the participation of Hollywood actors and writers, Large settlements with railway lines and large concessions by giant companies such as UPS.

Sean Fein, who He won the UAW presidency this spring in its first direct election By members, he set high expectations and assured union members that they could make big gains if they were willing to walk the picket lines.

In a speech to a Labor Day crowd in Detroit on Monday, Fine said that if companies don’t reach a fair contract, “by September 14, we will take action to get it by any means necessary.” “.

Fine described the contract talks with Detroit automakers as a form of war between billionaires and ordinary middle-class workers. Last month, in an act of exhibitionism during a Facebook Live event, Fine condemned Stellantis’ contract offer as “garbage” — and threw a copy of it in the trash, “where it belongs,” he said.

Over the past decade, the Detroit Three have emerged as solid moneymakers. Collectively, they have generated net income of $164 billion over the past decade, including $20 billion this year. CEOs at the Big Three automakers earn several million in annual compensation.

Speaking last month to Ford workers at a plant in Louisville, Kentucky, Fine complained about one standard for the corporate class and another for ordinary workers.

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“They are getting salaries that are out of control,” he added. “They’re getting pensions they don’t even need. They’re getting top-notch health care. They’re working whatever schedule they want. The majority of our members don’t get a pension right now. It’s crazy. We’re getting substandard health care. No “We can work remotely.”

UAW members voted overwhelmingly to allow its leaders to call a strike. So do Canadian autoworkers, whose contracts expire in four days and who have identified Ford as their target.

The UAW has not said whether or not it will choose one target automaker. All three could strike, although doing so could exhaust the union’s strike fund in less than three months.

On the other hand, if the strike lasts just 10 days, it will cost the three automakers nearly $1 billion, according to calculations by Anderson Economic Group. During the 40-day UAW strike in 2019, GM alone lost $3.6 billion.

Last week, the union filed unfair labor practices charges against Stellantis and GM, which it said had not yet filed counterproposals. As for Ford, Fine stressed that its response by rejecting most of the union’s demands “insults our very value.”

The three automakers responded that the union’s accusations were baseless and that they were seeking a fair deal that would allow them to invest in the future.

Marek Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, noted that the U.S.’s strong labor market and huge corporate profits gave Fine leverage in the negotiations. In addition, he noted that automakers are preparing to launch a large number of new electric vehicles that may be delayed by the strike. They only have a limited number of vehicles that can withstand a strike for an extended period.

“They are vulnerable,” Masters said.

He said: “The real question is: Are the parties ready to move on some of these matters at the table? That is not yet clear.”

Even Fine called the union’s proposals “bold” in demanding the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new employees. setting limits on wage levels; Increase pensions for retirees; And perhaps most audacious of all – 32 hours a week for 40 hours of pay.

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Currently, UAW workers hired after 2007 do not receive defined-benefit pensions. Their health benefits are less generous, too. For years, the union has given up on general wage increases and lost cost-of-living wage increases to help companies control costs. Although high-level assembly workers earn $32.32 per hour, temporary workers start at just under $17. However, full-time workers received profit-sharing checks this year ranging from $9,716 at Ford to $14,760 at Stellantis.

At a Labor Day parade in Detroit, workers said a strike now seemed possible.

Jason Craig, a worker at a Stellantis parts warehouse near Detroit, said his company seemed likely to be the target of the strike, but he said the union might go to Ford because it seems more family-oriented. Fine confirmed on Monday that the three companies were still targets of the attack.

Perhaps the biggest issue holding up a contract agreement is union representation at the 10 electric vehicle battery plants the companies have proposed. Most of these factories are joint ventures with South Korean battery makers, who want to pay less.

“These battery workers deserve the same wage and salary standards that generations of auto workers have fought for,” Fine told members.

The union fears that because electric vehicles are easier to build, with fewer moving parts, fewer workers will be needed to assemble them. In addition, workers at combustion engine and transmission plants will likely lose their jobs during the transition period; They will need somewhere to go.

Fine, a 54-year-old electrician exiting the Chrysler plant in Kokomo, Indiana, is among many labor leaders across the economy who have been stepping up their demands and flexing their muscles. So far this year, there have been 247 strikes involving 341,000 workers — the most since Cornell University began tracking strikes in 2021, though still well below the numbers during the 1970s and 1980s.

Masters suggested that automakers would not be able to quickly replace striking workers. A tight labor market, waning interest in manufacturing jobs, and relatively modest wages can make it difficult to hire enough workers.

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Some auto workers view the contract with UPS, which stipulates a higher wage of $49 an hour for experienced drivers, as a benchmark for their negotiations. Others say they just hope to get close to that number.

But automakers say the generous settlement will hold them to much higher costs than their rivals when they start producing more electric cars. The inability to bring Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda and Toyota plants into the union has weakened the UAW’s influence, said Harry Katz, a labor professor at Cornell University.

If you include the value of their benefits, workers at Detroit 3 automakers make about $60 an hour. The corresponding figure for foreign automakers with U.S. factories is only $40 to $45, Katz said. Much of this disparity reflects pensions and health care.

If Detroit companies end up with higher labor costs, they will pass them on to consumers, making vehicles more expensive, said Sam Fiorani, an analyst at AutoForecast Solutions, a consulting firm.

“More than half of the vehicles manufactured in the United States are in non-union plants,” he said. “So, if you raise the price to build a union vehicle, you can price yourself out of competition with vehicles already built in North America.”

A strike lasting more than two weeks would reduce still-limited vehicle supplies at automakers’ Detroit automakers’ dealerships. As demand continues to be strong, prices will rise.

UAW members “remind the administration that the administration cannot operate those plants without reaching a settlement,” Katz said.

Masters and Katz say there is still time to settle down without a strike. Katz expects a lower settlement than the UPS numbers, perhaps with a 3% overall wage increase plus cost-of-living adjustments, increased company contributions to new workers’ 401(k) accounts and a faster transition to higher wages.

However, Katz suggested Fine should back up his tough talk: “He’s got to prove himself.”


AP writers Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky, and Christopher Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.

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