Auto workers in a number of plants in the U.S. are striking. This unprecedented, strategic strike may spread further within days, if there is no progress in negotiations.
The striking auto workers are facing financial hardship. Detroit Free Press said in a report (Striking UAW members open up on human toll of UAW-Detroit 3 turmoil, September 20, 2023):
Striking is not easy — on anyone.
The automakers targeted by the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike face mounting product and profit losses. The suppliers to those companies face layoffs with no plant production, and consumers might have to wait for the car they want or pay higher prices.
And the workers, whether on the picket lines or working without a contract, face uncertainty and hardship, fighting to get back what they say they lost when auto manufacturers faced insolvency in 2007. It was then when the union gave up a pension, cost-of-living adjustment, some wages and other concessions.
And as the strike approaches its first full week, with contract negotiations between the UAW and Detroit Three still in flux, workers are speaking out about the unfair treatment they say they receive, the poor working conditions and contracts that are not fair and transparent, and most of all, they say, the nail-biting uncertainty that a strike portends for their families, their futures and their colleagues.
Uncertainty Is Nerve-Wracking
The report by Jasmin Barmore and Violet Ikonomova said:
When United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain called for an unprecedented, strategic strike against all of the Detroit Three automakers at midnight last Thursday, he declared on Facebook Live: “This is our generation’s defining moment.
“The money is there, the cause is righteous, the world is watching and the UAW is ready to stand up.”
The first plants Fain called on to “stand-up” and “strike” are General Motors Wentzville Assembly, Stellantis Toledo Assembly and the Ford Motor Co. Michigan Assembly Final Assembly and Paint only. Other plants are expected to join the picket lines in the coming days if contract negotiations prove fruitless.
“It is scary,” said La’Diamond Baynham, 34, of Inkster, a striking employee at Stellantis’s Toledo Assembly Plant, which produces the popular Jeep Wrangler. “It is unsurety right now. We are asking for a lot that actually was taken away throughout the bankruptcies (in 2008-09) — especially pensions.”
Baynham said she has been a member of the UAW for 11 years. This is her third contract, but the first time she has ever had to strike. The pay for union workers on strike is $500 a week — even less after taxes. Those seeking a second job to make ends meet cannot make over $499 a week or they will forfeit their strike pay. For those like Baynham who have a child and living expenses, the pay is not enough and the uncertainty is nerve-wracking, she said.
“I have help,” Baynham says of “her village,” referring to family and friends who help her support her 7-year-old son. “But I know people who have 3, 4, 5, 6 children. And to survive on that … that is a lot.”
Baynham says she also has a blood deficiency condition and medical bills can rack up quickly. The co-pays for doctor’s visits are $25 — $100 if she has to go to the hospital.
Baynham says she is standing strong with her “union brothers and sisters” in the strike and is willing to do whatever it takes for members to get what they deserve. The autoworkers have sacrificed enough, she says, and they are ready for change.
“Every day we are not running, it is costing them (Detroit Three) millions of dollars,” she said. “But you are willing to lose millions of dollars instead of pay us that money? It is not fair. It is almost backwards. Actually, it is completely backwards.”
2 Months And I Am Done
The report cited Thirty-six-year-old Erika Mitchell. She says she is already beginning to worry about Christmas for her and her children. The lives of her 5-year-old and 12-year-old boys have already changed.
“I had a talk with them both leading up to the strike,” said Mitchell, who is a strike captain at the Stellantis Toledo Assembly Plant. “I told them when or if I do strike, we will have to do, you know, some things differently.”
She says that a lot of times on Fridays, she orders pizza. Now that she is on strike, things like that, plus some after-school activities, will need to be put on hold.
“I told them we might not do pizza as often now because I am not bringing home as much money,” she said.
Mitchell moved her family from Detroit to Toledo, Ohio, shortly after getting the job at the Toledo Assembly Plant. Upon doing so, she says, she quickly learned how vital to survival the auto plant is not just for her and her family but the entire town. With the plant shut down, she fears nearby businesses — restaurants, suppliers, retail shops, even the housing market — are suffering, too.
“This does not just affect me,” Mitchell said. “This plant runs the city. This is affecting other people because now our suppliers are out of work. And the way they said it works in Ohio is, if you are laid off because of a strike you cannot get unemployment.”
Desia Clement, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, confirmed that workers involved in a labor dispute such as a strike may not be eligible for unemployment benefits, but noted that every claim is unique and decided on a case-by-case basis.
Mitchell says the strike is even taking a toll on the neighborhood McDonald’s up the road and the gas stations near the plant.
“We bring them a lot of business,” the strike captain said. “People will stop there on lunch breaks; people will stop there going into work, leaving work; you know, all different shifts. So, all day there is times when they are too busy, and now I am pretty sure they are not getting their business like they were.”
Mitchell is traumatized to say the least about the strike. She says she does not want to have to find another job because she has already invested so much into this one. However, she said, she recently signed up for a side job with Instacart so she can have a little more money to help make ends meet in addition to what the strike fund is paying. Two months is the longest Mitchell says she can survive on strike pay before she has to go with “Plan B.”
“I am going to go work at the airport,” Mitchell said. “I have seen that Delta was hiring, and I am like, at least I can get some type of flight benefits or something out of it, because I feel like I put so much into this job. So, I do not know if I want to put myself back into a job like this.”
It Was Supposed To Be The Door To A Better Life
The report cites Samantha Richter, 33, of Commerce Township. Richter recently started as a temp at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in the hope of building a more stable life for her 4-year-old daughter, Aria.
Motherhood waylaid Richter’s plans to become a teacher — a goal she had spent several years working toward at the University of Michigan-Flint. And she has been back home with her parents since separating from Aria’s father three years ago.
Richter says she has struggled to navigate life as a working single mom. The overnight shift at Ford presented a balance: She could get home by 5 a.m., get some rest, take her daughter to preschool and nap before picking her up.
Ford also presented an eventual financial opportunity: Workers, she says, can be elevated from temporary status within eight months, and in eight years make $32 an hour.
That future seems far off for Richter, a temp just scraping by earning $17.50 an hour. Without a significant pay hike, she expects to have to struggle for a while.
“It would just be nice to get up on my own feet,” she says. “My family, they do not feel like I am a burden. But I have felt like a burden, just always needing help and needing somewhere to stay.”
A potential 40% pay increase over the life of the four-year contract currently being negotiated — or even something approaching that — would, she says, be “1000% … life-changing,” allowing her to pay off debts and start saving for a place for just her and Aria.
For the 4-year-old, who accompanied mom on the picket line Monday after seeing the strikers on the TV news, more pay would mean more snacks.
The importance of which was in the message scrawled on the My Little Pony sign the restless preschooler brought with her to the picket line: “Fair Pay! Snacks are expensive!”
No More Tiers, Fear Of Retaliation
The report said:
An employee at the Stellantis Warren Truck Assembly Plant where employees currently are working without a contract, C. Smith — who asked to be identified by her first initial and last name due to fear of retaliation — says she too is ready to strike if her plant is called upon. Smith says she is trusting Fain to stand on his promise of a “stand up” strike and “going all out” to fight for a fair contract. She says she is motivated by her initial experience as a TPT, or temporary part time employee, when she first joined the automaker in 2018.
“We were told there would be rollovers in the 2019 contract, and everyone was told we would hit top pay in four years,” Smith said. “However, what they failed to tell us was that you had to be ‘rolled over/converted’ to full time prior to the 2019 agreement in order to hit top pay by the fourth year.”
In 2019, when the now-expired contracts were being ratified, Smith says, it was under the assumption that by the end of that contract “all employees hired prior to the 2019 agreement, who make at least $24.40 an hour or more,” would go to top pay. But that did not happen for her, she said, because of how the company defined what “hired” meant.
“I did not go to top pay,” she said. “By their definition, what they tried to claim as hired, means you had to be a seniority rolled over to full time employee before the 2019 contract.”
Currently, for Stellantis full-time employees, top pay is $31.77 an hour. Smith says that she was rolled over to full-time in October 2020, but on her work dashboard her time of service says she has five to six years and that she is being paid the hourly rate for that classification. What is unclear, she says, is how, if she has six years of service, was not she put at “top pay.”
“When you are a TPT, they (the company) does not even honor that time for real,” Smith said. “My biggest issue with this next contract is that they can say one thing; they can put things in the highlights; they can tell the news what we are fighting for; and then, when we are under the assumption we are going to get this stuff, there is something in the fine print.
“Or they can say that is not what we meant by that, and that is not fair.”
Smith, who is a single mother of a 10-year-old girl, says that although striking is going to be a struggle for her with her $2,200-a-month rent, she is prepared to take to the picket line. She says Stellantis needs to understand that “they are not overseas anymore,” and that people are willing to fight for what they deserve. Moreover, Smith said, she does not want another TPT to have the same experience she did.
“I have a soft spot for the TPT’s because I was one for three years,” she said. “And TPT’s work just like we do. They work beside us. They work the same hours.”
In the new negotiations, autoworkers are asking for the tiers that separate TPT’s from full-time employees to be removed. They want wages of $40 an hour, shifts that allow them to not spend so much time away from home and the cost-of-living to be factored into their pay, among other things. Smith says that if this does not happen, along with full transparency of what employees can and cannot get, she would not be a part of the Detroit Three much longer.
“I do not see myself being here another four years just for them to deal us another shitty contract.”
J.O.B. = Just. Over. Broke.
The report added:
As a top-pay earner at Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant, Toya Allen still lives paycheck to paycheck.
The 43-year-old Westland resident joined Ford six years ago, at a facility where pay was capped at $22.50 an hour. Though the switch to the plant in Wayne recently bumped her hourly pay to $32, Allen’s monthly expenses approach $3,000, and she says she has to hustle on the side to cover unexpected extras — like vet visits for her Shih Tzu, Denzel Washington.
“It is a ‘J.O.B.,’” she says of her position building doors for the Bronco: “Just. Over. Broke.”
Smiling Too Hard
Allen was drawn to blue-collar work for the “prestige,” she says, and the UAW for the protection, “because when you work for (nonunion) entities they can fire you for smiling too hard.”
She says she is proud to be at Ford because the company affords workers a life free from government assistance. But, she says, that’s all it does: “You can live off it. But … you don’t have a life.”
Allen, the lone earner in her household, is bracing to live off even less during the strike. The $500-per-week compensation means some bills will have to wait and business at her side cooking venture will have to pick up — unlikely, though, given that she says most of her clients are coworkers who also now are living off less.
Though she is good-humored on the line, the prospect of a lengthy strike at times has her anxious and depressed.
“Worst case scenario,” she says, “I will wind up homeless.”
Allen laughs and then gets serious, having experienced it before in her early 30s.
“I am too old to go through anything like that again,” she says. “I have worked very hard to get to where I am.
“I want to work.”
Trying To Keep Pace
Working for the Detroit Three started off as a good thing 11 years ago for Detroit native Kevin Richardson, 36. The job served as a middle-class career opportunity where folks could make “good money” and provide a decent lifestyle for themselves and their families.
But today, Richardson — who works on the sealer deck at the Stellantis Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, where employees are working without a contract — says the environment has changed drastically with plants being unsanitary and the elimination of jobs. He says there is no “job security at all,” as he faces the prospect of losing his job to a robot — for the second time. And the very real possibility of his plant being pulled into the strike is not helping.
“If we have to strike and get what they are giving us ($500) out of the strike fund, it is going to be real tight,” Richardson said. “What they are offering us is not enough to even live. It is not even enough to even scratch the surface of maintaining your lifestyle before we had to go on strike.”
Richardson says autoworkers are asking for fair wages — which include a pay raise and cost-of-living adjustment. Some plant workers, he says, are working two jobs to make ends meet and should not have to while working for the Detroit Three — all of which reported big yearly profits just a few weeks ago. He says autoworkers want at least $40 an hour in the new contract. And despite how some detractors have characterized union auto workers as “spoiled” and “ungrateful,” he said that number is just enough pay to keep up with inflation.
According to the Social Security Administration, the COLA is 8.7%, the highest it has been since 1981. That number is expected to increase by 3% in 2024. The Social Security Administration adjusts benefit payments according to the COLA in order to keep up with inflation. But the auto manufacturers haven’t followed suit.
Richardson says workers are being offered $500 a week to participate in strike actions, but they still do not know if that money will be taxed. For him, being the father of two 7-year-old twin girls — one of whom is autistic — his monthly bills add up to about $3,000. He says the strike money, especially if taxed, is only enough to cover a grocery bill.
“And if you make over $500 doing another job somewhere else, you forfeit your strike fund money, even though they have been taking this money out your check to put into the strike fund,” he said.
Richardson says he has been able to save some money to help him out if he is called upon to strike. But, he said, he feels for other workers who may not be in his position, worried how to make ends meet and even planning to apply for public assistance if they fall behind financially due to the strike.
“Everything has went up, and people’s wages have stayed the same,” Richardson says. “That is not right.”
It Is About ‘The People Behind Me’
The Detroit Free Press report said:
When John Johnston, 56, of Inkster, joined Ford Motor Co. 27 years ago, he says it was a job that afforded even new workers a middle-class lifestyle. He had just left the military and was lured by what he recalls was about a $23-an-hour wage.
Today, entry-level employees start at $16.67.
“It went backwards, instead of forward,” he says.
As a legacy employee, Johnston has been hurt by some concessions the union agreed to during the economic downturn 15 years ago, particularly a cost-of-living allowance designed to ensure pay kept up with inflation.
But as he approaches retirement as a military veteran in a dual-income household, he says, he is not fighting for himself, but “for the people behind me.”
Those people, incidentally, include Johnston’s adult children: A 33-year-old daughter who is a team lead at Ford Michigan Assembly, where Johnston also works, and a son who intends to join the company.
Johnston wants to see an end to a two-tiered payment system that has resulted in newer workers making less doing the same job as others. The low wages prevent workers from buying the very vehicles they help build, he says, echoing what has become a picket-line talking point because it runs counter to the company’s legacy.
Johnston, the owner of both an F-150 and a Ford Explorer, sees himself as the beneficiary of that past.
“At 27 years, I never thought I would be on strike, but I am happy that we are,” he says. “I could retire tomorrow, but I want to help my fellow brothers and sisters to get the things that I was able to get.”
A Family Affair
Ford runs in 31-year-old Steven Hall’s blood. When he joined the Michigan Assembly Plant four years ago, he became a fourth-generation Ford employee.
Hall’s father works at the plant, and two cousins, a brother and uncle are on his shift. Hall’s great-grandfather worked at the storied Rouge complex converted to build military equipment during two world wars.
Future generations of Halls were drawn to the company for the lifestyle it afforded Steven’s great-grandfather, he says, allowing him to raise 14 children, most of whom would go on to work at the automaker or related businesses.
But with cutbacks, the job has lost its luster. Hall earns just over $21 an hour assembling the underbody of the Bronco in what is known as “the worst part of the plant” — a physically taxing role some liken to that of a contortionist.
When he started as a temp in 2019, Hall says, he had to work two jobs to get by. Even now, without a second job, he says, “I am at the point to where I cannot really make a living and stay above on bills.”
Hall has five years until he can earn the plant’s top wage of $32 an hour. But he says the rising cost of living has rendered even that wage too low.
“Back in the day, if you made $30 an hour you were getting somewhere in life. But now … even if you are making $30 you still may be having to supplement … to try to make sure you are stable,” he says. “You would not be able to put anything in a savings account, there is no such thing as investing, and half the time you have got kids so your money is going toward them too.”
Hall’s years at Ford — not unlike his great-grandfather’s — have been shaped by international calamity. He recalls being moved from the line to make ventilators during some of the worst months of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike those who were out of work and collecting unemployment, he notes, autoworkers risked their lives in close quarters and “never saw an extra dime.”
“You cannot disrespect the people that you hired to save people,” he says. “You literally hired us … to be able to save America and then you turn around and tell us, ‘Oh no, y’all not good enough.’
“What type of mess is that?” he says. “We need that money.”
Auto workers Brace For More Strikes
A Reuters report said:
United Auto Workers members picketing in Michigan and Ohio urged union leaders to hold firm on their biggest demands on pay hikes and compensation as their first-ever strike against the Detroit Three automakers hit its fifth day.
The UAW says it will strike against more U.S. plants on Friday if no serious progress was made in talks with automakers. The UAW launched a strike against Ford, General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis, last week, targeting one U.S. assembly plant at each company.
Workers on the picket lines in Wayne, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, on Tuesday said the union should not back down on its demands, with some hoping Friday’s deadline for more strikes would produce results.
Still, it was not clear when official negotiations between the two sides would resume after lengthy talks on Monday brought little progress, prompting concerns among some auto executives and congressional aides that a deal will not be struck before the Friday noon deadline.
“I am going to vote no on the contract until they get it right. I know we would not get everything, but we gave up a lot in 2008 with the recession,” said Laura Zielinski, 55, who has worked at the Stellantis Jeep plant in Toledo for more than 28 years. “I will do it as long as it takes.”
The U.S. strike is now in its fifth day, with some 12,700 of the UAW’s 150,000 total members who work at the Big Three on strike. Analysts expect plants that build more profitable pickup trucks like Ford’s F-150, GM’s Chevy Silverado and Stellantis’ Ram would be the next targets if the walkout continues.
“Hopefully they get things resolved within this week,” said Candis Holmes, 35, who works at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant, one of three affected by the strike.
The union and companies are at loggerheads over pay and benefits for workers. The three automakers have proposed 20% raises over the 4-1/2-year term of their proposed deals, though that is only half of what the UAW is demanding through 2027.
Workers have also pushed automakers to eliminate a tiered pay structure that pays newer workers much less for the same jobs than veterans and sought improved cost-of-living adjustments to wages.
“We want them to end tiers because everybody deserves to make a livable wage,” said Holmes, who has worked at Ford for eight years.
The strikes have halted production at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, alongside other popular models.
The Reuters report said:
The White House said on Tuesday that acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and adviser Gene Sperling will continue to speak to all sides from Washington instead of traveling to Detroit.
Ford on Friday furloughed 600 workers who are not on strike at the Michigan Bronco plant because of the impact of the work stoppage. GM said it expected to halt operations at its Kansas car plant early this week because of the strike at its nearby Missouri plant, affecting 2,000 workers.
The report said:
Separately, a Canadian union extended its deadline for negotiations at Ford’s operations in Canada by one day. Ford’s contract with Canadian union Unifor, which represents about 5,600 workers at three plants in Canada, expired at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday (0359 GMT on Tuesday).
Unifor said early on Tuesday that negotiations had been extended for 24 hours after it received a “substantive offer” from Ford but that Unifor members should “maintain strike readiness.”
A walkout by Canadian workers that shuts those engine plants could cripple U.S. production of Ford’s most profitable vehicles, even if the UAW decides not to order walkouts at truck plants in Kentucky; Dearborn, Michigan; and Kansas City, Missouri.
Ford said it had agreed to continue negotiations beyond the deadline in hopes of reaching a tentative agreement.
What Will Happen At GM’s Arlington Plant?
A report by Fort Worth Star-Telegram said
Car manufacturing workers walked off the job Friday morning at the Big Three automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — after a United Auto Workers strike was announced Thursday evening.
But the 5,600 workers at the General Motors Arlington Assembly plant were not among the group.
A Missouri GM assembly plant, Michigan Ford assembly plant and Ohio Stellantis assembly plant were the first strike targets after UAW’s contract expired Thursday night.
Contract talks between UAW and the “Big Three” manufacturers over the past few months have revolved around cost-of-living adjustments and inflation, the role and use of temporary manufacturing workers, the industry’s shift from pensions to 401(k) retirement plans and a tiered wage system. The union demanded a 40% pay increase as of early August.
While Arlington workers will continue North Texas operations for now, there is a chance they could be asked to strike in the near future, depending on how contract negotiations continue.
This is the first time the union has targeted all of the Big Three manufacturers in one strike. Previously, UAW would target one company and call for a strike at all of the company’s plants.
This most recently happened to General Motors when workers went on strike for 42 days in 2019. Economists say the strike led to a $4.2 billion economic loss and sent the state of Michigan — where General Motors is based — into a one-quarter recession.
“Our goal is not to strike,” said UAW president Shawn Fain during a Facebook Live in August when 97% of union members voted to authorize a strike. “I want to make that very clear. Our goal is to bargain good agreements for our members. But all we’ve tried to do with this is prepare everybody in the event that we have to take action to get a fair and just contract.”
More than 12,700 workers walked out as part of the initial strike.
“This is more of a symbolic strike than an actual damaging one,” Sam Fiorani, a production forecaster at Auto Forecast Solutions, told Reuters. “If the negotiations don’t go in a direction that Fain thinks is positive, we can fully expect a larger strike coming in a week or two.”
“The Big Three is our strike target. And whether or not there’s a strike — it’s up to Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, because they know what our priorities are. We’ve been clear,” Fain previously said.
The North Texas General Motors facility has significantly contributed to Arlington’s economy since the plant opened in the 1950s. General Motors announced a $500 million investment in June for the plant to maintain existing jobs as it gears up for the next cycle of SUV production.
General Motors Assembly in Arlington rolled out more than 34,000 new vehicles in March, setting a 70-year record for North Texas car production.
UAW has more than 600 local unions and 400,000 active members across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, according to the union’s website. It also has more than 1,700 contracts with more than 1,000 employers.
UAW Will Strike More Plants If ‘Serious Progress’ Is Not Made By Noon Friday
A report by NBCNews.com said:
“Autoworkers have waited long enough to make things right at the Big Three. We’re not waiting around, and we’re not messing around. So, noon on Friday, September 22nd is a new deadline,” Fain said in a video released online by the union.
Fain previously said the union planned to increase the work stoppages, based on how negotiations with the companies were going. The announcement follows the union meeting with each of the automakers since the targeted strikes began Friday.
Unlike the original contract deadlines, Fain did not say tentative agreements needed to be reached at the companies to avoid additional strikes, just “serious progress.” A union spokesman did not immediately respond for comment regarding what defines that aside from a tentative deal.
Currently on strike are workers from GM’s midsize truck and full-size van plant in Wentzville, Missouri; Ford’s Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV plant in Wayne, Michigan; and Stellantis’ Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plant in Toledo, Ohio.
The union selected the plants as part of targeted strike plans, as Fain and UAW leaders unconventionally negotiate with all three automakers at once. It’s calling the work stoppages “stand-up strikes,” a nod to historic “sit-down” strikes by the UAW in the 1930s.
“The ‘Stand Up Strike’ is a new approach to striking. Instead of striking all plants all at once, select locals have been called on to ‘Stand Up’ and walk out on strike. If the automakers fail to make progress in negotiations and bargain in good faith going forward, more locals will be called on to Stand Up and join the strike,” Fain said Monday.
Targeted strikes typically focus on key plants that can then cause other plants to cease production due to a lack of parts. They are not unprecedented, but the way the union is conducting them is not typical.
Ford and Stellantis did not immediately respond for comment on the new “deadline.” GM released a general statement on the talks: “We are continuing to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the U.S.”
The additional strike plans are despite automakers making record offers to the union that include roughly 20% hourly wage increases, thousands of dollars in bonuses, retention of the union’s platinum health care and other sweetened benefits.
Key demands from the union have included 40% hourly pay increases, a reduced 32-hour workweek, a shift back to traditional pensions, the elimination of compensation tiers and a restoration of cost-of-living adjustments, among other items.
Higher Stakes For Automakers
A report by CBS News (Why Is The UAW On Strike? These Are Their Contract Demands) said:
As the UAW enters day four of its strike against Detroit’s Big Three, the stakes are getting higher for automakers Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. UAW President Shawn Fain has threatened to target more factories for work stoppages if “serious progress” toward an agreement isn’t reached by Friday at noon.
What do striking autoworkers want? Here is a list of contract demands the union is making at the negotiating table.
The UAW is asking automakers for a 36% pay increase across a four-year contract. For now, however, the sides remain far apart on a wage hike.
Stellantis — which owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, along with major foreign brands including Citroën, Peugeot and Maserati) — on Saturday offered a 21% wage increase over four years, with an immediate 10% bump when a new contract is signed. The union summarily rejected the offer.
“It is definitely a no-go,” Fain told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday of Stellantis’ proposal. “We’ve made that very clear to the companies.”
The UAW also wants the Big Three to reinstate annual cost of living adjustments, arguing that inflation is eating away worker paychecks. For decades, the Detroit automakers offered a COLA, but stopped after GM and Chryslers went bankrupt following the 2008 financial crisis.
Adjusting for inflation, autoworkers have seen their average wages fall 19.3% since 2008, according to Adam Hersh, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. That is because autoworker “concessions made following the 2008 auto industry crisis were never reinstated,” Hersh said in a recent blog post, “including a suspension of cost-of-living adjustments.”
End Of Wage Tiers
The report said:
The UAW wants the Big Three to scrap its two-tiered wage structure. Under that system, top-tier workers — meaning anyone who joined the company in 2007 or earlier — earn an average of roughly $33 an hour. But those hired after 2007 are classified as lower tier and earn far less — up to about $17 an hour.
Lower-tier employees also aren’t eligible for defined benefit pensions, and their health benefits are less generous. The UAW says that paying employees half as much for doing the same work amounts is unfair.
Defined Benefit Pension Plans For All
Currently, UAW workers who were hired after 2007 don’t receive defined benefit pensions. For years, the union gave up general pay raises and lost cost-of-living wage increases to help the companies control costs.
“The majority of our members do not get a pension nowadays. It’s crazy,” Fain complained while speaking to Ford workers last month at a plant in Louisville, Kentucky.
Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo, believes the union will ultimately lose its battle for the return of pensions.
“I think the chances of them winning even most of what they’re looking for is between slim and none,” said Wheaton. For example, he said, “I wouldn’t hold my breath for [the return of pension plans]. Almost no one in any industry is adding those today.”
“But you never ask for the minimum, you ask for more than what you want to reach a deal,” he said.
Four-day workweek and more time off
Along with substantial pay raises, more paid time off and pension benefits, one of the changes UAW leaders have been bargaining for is a four-day workweek, working 32 hours for 40 hours of pay, and more time off “to spend with family,” according to the UAW site.
“Our members are working 60, 70, even 80 hours a week just to make ends meet. That’s not living. It’s barely surviving and it needs to stop,” Fain said last month on Facebook Live, explaining the demands of the union.
Advocating for shorter workweeks is not a new concept for auto workers. Congress amended federal labor laws in 1940, limiting the workweek to 40 hours, but nearly 15 years earlier, Ford Motors became one of the first companies to implement a 40-hour week.
Right To Strike, Family Protection
The report said:
The union is also asking for the right to strike over plant closings.
“The Big Three have closed 65 plants over the last 20 years,” according to the UAW’s website. “That’s devastated our hometowns. We must have the right to defend our communities.”
With that in mind, the union also wants to implement a “working family protection program” that pays UAW to do community service work if the companies shut down a facility.
Perhaps most important to the union is that it be allowed to represent workers at 10 electric vehicle battery factories, most of which are being built by joint ventures between automakers and South Korean battery makers. The union wants those plants to receive top UAW wages. In part that’s because workers who now make components for internal combustion engines will need a place to work as the industry transitions to EVs.
Retiree Health Care
In addition to a return of traditional pension payment plans and significantly higher pay for retired workers, the union is seeking health care for all retired UAW members. Workers hired before 2007 still have those benefits. But those hired since – a majority of hourly workers – do not.
The UAW gave up the pension plans and retiree health care for new hires and COLA for all members when GM and Chrysler were hurtling toward bankruptcy in 2009. But it will be difficult for the union to convince management to reinstate those benefits, said Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Group, a Michigan research firm.
Limited Use Of Temporary Workers
The union is also demanding that the automakers limit their use temporary workers, who under the tiered-wage system receive the least pay and no benefits.
“We are going to end the abuse of temps. Our fight at the Big Three is a fight for every worker,” the UAW states on its website.
Fain has acknowledged that the union’s demands are “audacious.” But he contends that the automakers can afford to raise workers’ pay significantly.
Over the past decade, the Detroit Three have emerged as robust profit-makers. They’ve collectively posted net income of $164 billion, $20 billion of it this year. The CEOs of all three major automakers earn multiple millions in annual compensation.
“Companies have made some significant offers, but I believe it should go further — to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts,” President Biden said Friday as he addressed the decision by UAW’s decision to strike,