United Auto Workers are close to striking too, seek a 32 hour week and raises

Hot Labor Summer is definitely continuing into Fall, and I think it’s in no small part due to excellent messaging from the unions. SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher, who handily won re-election last week, ended August by framing the Hollywood strikes as commentary on the “culture of big business.” Well, it seems workers in the auto industry were listening. The 146,000-member United Auto Workers (UAW) have been negotiating new contracts with General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis (they make Chrysler), collectively known as the “Big Three” of US automakers (and the only US auto companies with unionized workers). The deadline for working out new contracts with each of the Big Three is before midnight this Thursday, and all signs are pointing to the clock running out and strikes being declared:

A lack of good faith: UAW President Shawn Fain earlier panned some automakers’ offers and emphasized that union workers stand ready to head to the picket lines, though he told a crowd in Detroit over Labor Day weekend: “Our intent is not to strike. Our intent is to get a fair agreement.” The union is negotiating with all three automakers simultaneously, in a break from previous rounds of contract talks. The UAW also recently filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing GM and Stellantis of failing to bargain in good faith and in a timely fashion. The automakers have said they’re willing to negotiate in good faith and have pushed back against union demands they say are excessive — in some cases warning that big pay hikes could cut into investments needed to make the transition to electric vehicles.

CEO wages have been hiking: Fain has promoted the union’s “ambitious” push for more generous wages and benefits. The UAW is seeking a 40% wage hike over four years (amounting to 46% compounded), along with cost-of-living increases; beefed-up retirement benefits, including pensions on par with what autoworkers previously received; and a shortened 32-hour workweek, down from 40. The UAW has pointed to Big Three executives’ pay in demanding higher pay for workers. For example, GM chief Mary Barra’s compensation grew by 32.5% from 2018 to 2022. During the same period, the median GM employee’s pay grew by 2.8%, public filings show.

Agreeing to better wages would be cheaper than letting it go to a strike: Even a strike lasting just 10 days could cost the Big Three automakers at least $5 billion, according to a recent estimate by the Anderson Economic Group… GM and Ford stand to lose $2.5 billion and $3 billion in revenue, respectively, for every week a strike lasts, Goldman Sachs Equity Research estimated. By comparison, agreeing to a 40% wage bump for UAW members would cost GM $4 billion to $5 billion and Ford $5 billion to $6 billion over four years. Goldman didn’t provide estimates for Stellantis.

UAW has a fund ready in case talks break down: The UAW has amassed $825 million in a strike fund that would pay eligible members $500 a week during a work stoppage, a sum that is expected to last for up to around 11 weeks but could be depleted sooner because of health care costs.

A 2019 strike saw GM lose billions in a little over a month: In 2019, autoworkers at GM went on a 40-day strike that cost the company an estimated $3.6 billion that year. The work stoppage pushed Michigan’s economy into a single-quarter recession.

[From NBC News]

Look, at this point it’s not news that CEOs don’t want to part with their disproportionate salaries. Even though it’s not surprising, I still get angry, especially when the numbers so clearly spell out that there is money available to give workers better wages, and that doing so would cost less than a strike. But the part that really sent me over the edge, though, was the Big Three’s implication that there’s only room in the budget for transitioning to electric vehicles OR giving workers better pay. They simply cannot do both! Please, GMAFB. If only the Department of Energy would invest a couple billion dollars from the Inflation Reduction Act towards domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles…

The countdown is on for midnight on Thursday. UAW sure seems united and prepared should they be left with no alternative but to strike. I’m rooting for the autoworkers, the writers, and the actors. And later down the line I look forward to the Oscar-bait film that will inevitably be made with Charlize Theron as a UAW member just trying to make a living.

Photos credit: Jim West / ImageBROKER / Avalon and via Instagram

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26 Responses to “United Auto Workers are close to striking too, seek a 32 hour week and raises”

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  1. Ely says:

    Thanks for covering this! Late-stage capitalism could be the end of us all. I like to believe things ARE changing, I just hope it will be in time.

  2. FHMom says:

    Raise their damn wages! A strike hurts everyone.

  3. Becks1 says:

    The CEO pay is what kills me across the board. With everything, its “we have to raise prices” but the truth is, companies don’t have to raise prices. They have to raise prices to keep their profit margins the same so the CEOs can keep their big bonuses. It’s not like if you’re paying more for a car than you would have paid 2 or 3 years ago (maybe because of legitimate increases in parts/materials) that the workers are getting more money. It’s about protecting the people at the top. It’s about making sure the CEOs bonuses aren’t touched.

    And I think people are really get fed up with that.

    • ML says:

      Can we also go after shareholders? So many companies prioritize the people who get rich off of them instead of their workers or their customers.

      • Minnieder says:

        Exactly this!!!! My company’s entire recent shift to move as many people back in an office (even people that had been WAH for 20 years) was to appease the shareholders. Our CEO actually had the nerve to tell us that!!!

      • goofpuff says:

        @Minnieder At least the CEO is being honest instead of some “work culture” excuse. People who want to go into the office and are lonely should not try to force their co-workers to come in to the office to keep them company. Why does their desire for social interaction supersede my desire for a better work life balance?

  4. SarahCS says:

    I am so pleased we’re having these conversations and taking a closer look at business finances and pay at all levels.

    I read a fascinating piece (maybe on Pajiba) that in the US the CEO is legally obligated to do what will make most money for the shareholders, even if that hurts the business down the line, never mind catastrophic impact on people in the here and now. Business should not exist simply to make money and give more to the already rich, the system is clearly broken.

  5. dlc says:

    I LOVE the idea of a 32 hour workweek! If the automakers do it, it might spread to other businesses.

    • lucy2 says:

      I would LOVE that. Unfortunately I work in professional services, time billed to clients, so it won’t happen here, but I would love it.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      I think if we went to a 32-hour work week, especially without reduction in salary, we will see more big, global companies off-shore white collar jobs (even the companies that are pushing their people to come back into the office despite increased productivity working remotely will do this) because salaries are lower outside the US.

  6. Jais says:

    Pay the workers. Raise their wages. Periodt.

  7. Kimmy says:

    My mom retired from GM after 30 years. Working on the line all that time wrecked her body. I’m all for a shorter work week and better benefits, that job is not for the weak.

    I worked there one summer in college and it was boring, loud, physically demanding, and so monotonous!

    • MoonTheLoon says:

      That’s where the high salaries should be funnelled, to the people *literally* breaking themselves to help keep life moving. I appreciate that having the mental aptitude to keep the companies going is no cakewalk. But the injuries you do to your body on the line can shorten a person’s life considerably and/or cause great suffering. Meanwhile, the CEO lives on with the best of care and likely having any malaise effectively mitigated.

  8. aang says:

    Solidarity forever!

  9. Andrea says:

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand,”

    Fredrick Douglas

  10. Bettyrose says:

    The strike fund could be depleted sooner because of healthcare costs. I’m highlighting this for everyone outside the US to point out the extent to which employer sponsored healthcare drives wage inequality here. Fighting for more is a dangerous game because your healthcare is always on the line.

  11. Concern Fae says:

    Can they strike for actually making cars and not just higher profit SUVs?

    Also, we need legislation to end stock buybacks. They used to be illegal. That is money that in the past was reinvested in the business and worker pay. Now it gets funneled into shareholder pockets, including top management.

    Wages keeping up with inflation and rising local housing costs needs to become the minimum standard for all businesses. Good on the unions for fighting for that.

    • Ashley says:

      Truly excellent policy suggestions. I think we all have to understand that, if we are going to retain capitalism, it has to be wholly redrawn with new checks and balances.

      The biggest thing for me is billionaires who “charitably” redump their money back into public organizations (Bezos, Gates). THEY get to choose where those ridiculous profits land, rather than the public or government. Billionaires are even f-ing up social services now.

  12. Ivan says:

    We cant forget the not only the fiscal importance of unions in America, but also its social importance

  13. HoofRat says:

    Why does it feel like we’ reliving the 1920s and 30s? Pandemic, rise of unabashed fascism, huge wealth inequity, labour unrest – we’ve been here before and apparently some people haven’t learned anything. If you pay people well and treat them fairly, everyone prospers. I am grateful for every union that is fighting so hard to ensure that workers are respected, because all of us benefit from the gains they make.

    • Bettyrose says:

      Theoretically the US stood in opposition to fascism in the 1930s. Though we were very much an apartheid state that Hitler admired.

  14. Mollie says:

    My husband is in the international longshoremen’s union. They’re about to be next. I forget which shipping line it was, but one CEO gave himself a $4 billion dollar bonus from the money he made price gouging during the pandemic.

    • bettyrose says:

      Hugs to you and your family. I hope it all goes well and is a victory for the workers. Longshoremen, like auto workers, do far more to support a thriving national/global economy than any CEO.

  15. bisynaptic says: