DETROIT (AP) — A 46% increase in salary. 32 hours per week with 40 hours of pay. Restoration of traditional pensions
The demands the more combative UAW has made on GM, Stillants and Ford — demands the UAW president has called “bold” — are bringing her closer to a strike when her contract expires Sept. 14.
The automaker, which makes billions in revenue, has been denied the UAW’s wish list. Its demands, they argue, are unrealistic at a time of fierce competition from Tesla and lower-paying 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 drive up already-inflated car prices.
The potential strike of the UAW’s 146,000 members comes against a backdrop It increasingly encouraged American unions of all kinds. The number of strikes and threats of strikes is constantly increasing With the participation of Hollywood actors and writers, Large settlements with railways and large concessions by giant corporations such as UPS.
Sean Fenn, who He won the UAW presidency this spring in its first direct election By the members, he set high expectations and assured the guild 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 come up with a fair contract, “by September 14th, we’ll take action to get it by any means necessary.” “.
Fine described the contract talks with the Detroit automakers as a form of war between billionaires and ordinary middle-class workers. Last month, in a showmanship during a Facebook Live event, Fine denounced Stellantis’ contract offer as “garbage” — and tossed a copy in the trash, “where it belongs”, he said.
Over the past decade, the Detroit Three have emerged as solid profit makers. They have collectively generated a net income of $164 billion over the past decade, including $20 billion this year. The CEOs of 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 corporate class and another for ordinary workers.
“They get paid out of control,” he added. “They get pensions they don’t even need. They get top-notch healthcare. They work whatever schedule they want. The majority of our members don’t get a pension nowadays. It’s crazy. We get substandard healthcare. No We can work remotely.”
UAW members voted overwhelmingly to allow its leaders to call the strike. So do the Canadian auto workers, whose contracts expire in four days and who have identified Ford as their target.
The UAW hasn’t said whether or not it will choose a single target automaker. He could strike all three, though doing so could deplete the guild’s strike fund in as little as three months.
On the other hand, if the strike lasts only 10 days, it will cost the three automakers nearly $1 billion, according to Anderson Economics Group calculations. During the UAW’s 40-day strike in 2019, GM alone lost $3.6 billion.
Last week, the union filed charges of unfair labor practices against Stellantis and GM, which it said had not yet filed counterproposals. As for Ford, Vine asserted that her response by rejecting most of the union’s demands “insults our very value.”
The three automakers have responded that the union’s accusations are unfounded and that they are seeking a fair deal that will allow them to invest in the future.
Marek Masters, professor of business administration at Wayne State University in Detroit, noted that the strong US job market and huge corporate profits gave Fine leverage in negotiations. In addition, he noted that automakers are preparing to launch a large number of new electric cars that may be delayed by the strike. And they only have a limited number of vehicles that can withstand the strike for a long time.
“They are at risk,” Masters said.
“The real question is: Are the parties willing to move on some of these things on the table? It’s not clear yet,” he said.
Even Fine described the union’s proposals as “bold” in calling for the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new employees. limit wage levels; increase pensions for retirees; And perhaps the most daring of all – 32 hours a week for 40 hours’ pay.
Currently, UAW workers hired after 2007 do not receive defined benefit pensions. Their health benefits are less generous, too. For years, the union ditched general pay increases and lost cost-of-living increases to help companies control costs. Although high-level assembly workers earn $32.32 an hour, temporary workers start at just under $17. However, full-time workers received profit-sharing checks ranging from $9,716 at Ford to $14,760 at Stellantis this year.
At the Detroit Labor Day parade, workers said a strike now looked likely.
Jason Craig, a worker at the Stellantis parts warehouse near Detroit, said his company seemed the most likely target of the strike, but said the union might go to Ford because it appears more family-oriented. On Monday, Fine confirmed that the three companies were still targets of the attack.
Perhaps the biggest problem holding up contract agreement is union representation in the 10 electric vehicle battery plants that the companies have proposed. Most of these factories are joint ventures with battery makers in South Korea, 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 in combustion engine and transmission plants are likely to lose their jobs during the transition period; They will need a place to go.
Fine, a 54-year-old electrician who walked out of the Chrysler plant in Kokomo, Indiana, is among the 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 narrow labor market, waning interest in manufacturing jobs, and relatively modest wages would make it difficult to recruit enough workers.
Some auto workers see 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 are just hoping to get close to that number.
But the automakers say the generous settlement will commit them to much higher costs than their rivals when they start producing more electric cars. Harry Katz, a professor of labor at Cornell University, said the inability to bring together the plants of Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda and Toyota has weakened the UAW’s influence.
If you include the value of their benefits, the Detroit 3 automakers make about $60 an hour. The corresponding figure for foreign automakers with American plants, Katz said, is only $40 to $45. Much of this disparity reflects pensions and health care.
If Detroit companies end up taking higher labor costs, they will pass them on to consumers, making vehicles more expensive, said Sam Fiorani, an analyst with AutoForecast Solutions, a consulting firm.
“More than half of the vehicles manufactured in the United States are in non-union factories,” 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 supplies of vehicles that remain limited at the automakers’ Detroit dealerships. With continued strong demand, prices will rise.
UAW members are “reminding the administration that the administration cannot operate those plants without a settlement,” Katz said.
Masters and Katz say there is still time to settle down without a strike. Katz expects a lower settlement of UPS numbers, possibly with a 3% overall pay increase plus cost-of-living adjustments, more company contributions to 401(k) accounts for new workers and a faster transition to higher wages.
However, Katz suggested that Fine should back up his tough talk: “He has to prove himself.”
Associated Press writers Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Kentucky, and Christopher Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.
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