By Andrew Moran
There is growing concern that workers at the Big Three automakers—Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis—will strike when the United Auto Workers (UAW) union contract ends at 11:59 p.m. New York time on Sept. 14.
In August, 97 percent of UAW’s members who work at the Big Three voted to authorize a strike unless their demands are met. Strikes could happen in various ways, such as a national walkout or targeted work stoppages at facilities across the country.
UAW leadership has demanded a four-year contract on behalf of roughly 150,000 workers that includes a 46 percent pay raise, a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay, and the restoration of traditional pensions.
“Our union’s membership is clearly fed up with living paycheck-to-paycheck while the corporate elite and billionaire class continue to make out like bandits,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement. “The Big Three have been breaking the bank while we have been breaking our backs.”
Mr. Fain noted in an Aug. 31 Facebook Live event that starting pay for UAW members “is $10 an hour less than what it was in 2007,” when looking at inflation-adjusted dollars.
However, the Big Three automakers have pushed back against some of the proposals during negotiations.
Ford’s 2023 offer is an increase from 2019. Other offers include a 9 percent general wage increase over the span of the contract, a $20 starting wage for temporary employees, a $12,000 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), health care for permanent UAW-represented hourly employees, and two family days off per contract.
“We will not make a deal that endangers our ability to invest, grow and share profits with our employees. That would mortgage our future and would be harmful to everyone with a stake in Ford, including our valued UAW workers,” Ford CEO and President Jim Farley said in a statement shared with The Epoch Times.
“Bottom line, we believe there is a path to succeed together in what is the most competitive and fast-changing era in the history of the American auto industry.”
Mr. Fain dismissed the proposal, saying that it “insults our very worth.”
Meanwhile, General Motors’ head of manufacturing, Gerald Johnson, argued that UAW’s demands maintain “significant costs attached that would threaten our ability to maintain our manufacturing momentum.” Mr. Johnson and GM President Mark Reuss assured all parties that they want to reach a “fair” deal without a strike.
Estimates show that even a 10-day strike could cost the three auto companies about $1 billion and result in a total economic loss of more than $5 billion. In 2019, when UAW members initiated a 40-day strike, GM lost close to $4 billion.
Reaction in Washington
Speaking during a Labor Day appearance in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden told reporters that he doesn’t believe there will be a strike.
“No, I’m not worried about a strike until it happens,” President Biden stated. “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
However, Mr. Fain rejected President Biden’s assertion, telling reporters during the Labor Day parade that “he must know something we don’t know.”
“Maybe the companies plan on walking in and giving us our demands on the night before. I don’t know, but he’s on the inside on something I don’t know about,” Mr. Fain said.
President Biden has repeatedly claimed that he’s the most pro-labor and pro-union president, when compared to any of his predecessors.
While other labor unions have supported President Biden’s reelection campaign, the UAW is still sitting on the sidelines due to the current administration’s electric vehicle policies.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told CNN that “we need to stand with UAW.”
“American taxpayer dollars are helping build new auto factories,” he said. “CEOs are raising their own wages up to 40 percent. Autoworkers deserve a raise and safe working conditions.”
UAW members are asking for good pay and benefits to stay in the middle class, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) says.
“I’ve never heard someone demand to be a millionaire,” she wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “They are asking to be able to work 40 hours at one job with good benefits, so that they can get and stay in the middle class and so that they can do well and their kids can do better.”
At a UAW rally on Sept. 4, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) lent her support to the union’s call for the restoration of the cost-of-living adjustment and an end to wage tiers, the Detroit News reported.
“If we don’t get it, shut it down,” Ms. Tlaib said.
Year of Labor Action
Over the past year, unionized workers such as airline pilots, actors and writers in Hollywood, UPS workers, and railroad employees have flexed their influence to press for what they feel they’re worth, whether it’s better pay and benefits or an improved work-life balance.
There have been 251 strikes this year, compared to 417 a year ago, according to data compiled by Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker. At the same time, the unionization rate stands at a record low of 10.1 percent, although a recent Gallup poll found that Americans’ support of unions is rising.