The United Auto Workers (UAW) members employed by Mack Trucks, owned by Volvo Group, are facing a critical decision this weekend as they vote on a tentative agreement. However, this agreement falls significantly short of their expectations, posing a challenge for these workers to accept a deal that does not meet their demands. Union members, approximately 3,900 strong, will have to decide whether to ratify a deal that includes lower hourly pay increases, no equal pay for equal work, lack of inflation protection, and potentially longer work weeks. Unlike their counterparts at the Detroit automakers, some Mack Trucks workers were expecting similar increases and benefits. Disappointment and concerns about the terms of the agreement have emerged, suggesting that many are planning to vote against it.
Many Mack Trucks workers voiced their dissatisfaction with the tentative agreement, citing various reasons for their opposition. Firstly, they argue that the agreement fails to meet their expectations. Worker expectations were high, shaped by the improvements negotiated by the UAW President Shawn Fain on behalf of members at General Motors, Ford Motor, and Stellantis. While the master contract might not be horrid, it does not come close to what the Mack Trucks workers were anticipating. One 12-year employee at the company’s Lehigh Valley Operations in Pennsylvania shared his disappointment, stating that the contract falls short of what was expected.
Moreover, the length of the tentative agreement is a critical concern. The deal is one year longer than the previous agreement, which raises concerns about job security and the potential for further dissatisfaction over an extended period. Furthermore, workers highlighted that the pay increases and bonuses included in the agreement are insufficient to offset inflation or reward their dedication during the Covid-19 pandemic. This inadequacy adds to the discontent and opposition to the proposed deal.
The details of the tentative agreement vary depending on location and job positions. However, for many Mack Trucks workers, the agreement includes a roughly 19% wage increase over the course of a five-year deal, with 10% payable upon ratification. The agreement also offers a $3,500 ratification bonus, increased 401(k) company payments, and other benefits. However, certain demands, such as eliminating wage tiers, reinstating traditional pensions, implementing cost-of-living adjustments to combat inflation, and shorter work weeks, are not addressed in the tentative agreement.
Despite its merits, the Mack Trucks tentative agreement pales in comparison to the demands set by UAW President Shawn Fain for negotiations with the Detroit automakers. The Mack Trucks deal does not provide the proposed 40% pay increase, inflation protection, work/life balance, and additional bonuses and benefits. Worker dissatisfaction is further compounded by the fact that pay tiers, a primary concern for the workers, have not been adequately addressed, with only a one-year reduction proposed to bring the steps down to five years.
The lack of transparency surrounding the tentative agreement has fueled discontent among Mack Trucks workers. While the UAW and Mack Trucks announced the agreement, highlighting its “highlights,” neither party has publicly released the contract ahead of the employee meetings and voting. Several workers have described the deal as disgraceful and an insult to their expectations, particularly when compared to ongoing negotiations between UAW international leaders and the Detroit automakers.
Many Mack Trucks workers argue that they should have access to negotiation options similar to those enjoyed by workers at the Big Three, given that they pay union dues akin to their union brethren. Target strikes, like those occurring at the Detroit automakers, have been mentioned as potential ways to fight for additional wages and benefits, particularly the reinstatement of cost-of-living adjustments to combat inflation. Workers express the concern that without such adjustments, they will find themselves in the same predicament in five years’ time.
Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit specializing in labor issues, highlights the unique position of Mack Trucks compared to the Detroit automakers. However, he acknowledges that inflated expectations among union members can be problematic, leading to dissatisfaction when the reality falls short. The UAW, despite its successes in the past, now finds itself facing this challenge.
The vote by Mack Trucks workers on the tentative agreement represents a critical moment for both the workers and the UAW. The dissatisfaction with the agreement is apparent, with workers feeling let down by the unmet expectations and the perceived disparity in negotiation options compared to the Detroit automakers. The ultimate decision made by the workers will shed light on their willingness to accept a lesser deal and their level of trust in the UAW.