After five weeks of labor strikes against the Detroit automakers, UAW President Shawn Fain expressed his belief that there is still “more to be won” in the ongoing contract negotiations. Despite the record-breaking contract offers from General Motors, Ford Motor, and Stellantis, which include 23% hourly pay increases and enhanced benefits, Fain insists that these contracts are not enough to compensate for the decline experienced by auto workers over the past two decades.
In his online broadcast, Fain acknowledged that while the current offers are remarkable, they come after years of record decline in the industry. He argued that being the “best ever” falls short when considering the adversity automotive workers have faced. Fain’s insistence on obtaining more substantial gains reflects the determination of the UAW to address the long-standing challenges faced by its members.
Despite Fain’s determination, the UAW did not announce any additional strikes on Friday against the automakers. Fain recognized that there are still cards to be played and money to be spent, leaving room for further negotiations. However, he did not explicitly address the union’s reported request for a 25% increase in general wages.
Since initiating an unexpected walkout at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant on October 11, which produces highly profitable pickup trucks and SUVs, the UAW has not announced any additional strikes. Ford’s proposal regarding economics seemed promising, as highlighted by Fain. While Fain spent a considerable amount of time discussing the union’s plans to organize non-union plans during the negotiations, he heavily criticized Ford Chair Bill Ford’s comments on ending the negotiations.
Fain made it clear that the days of the UAW teaming up with Ford against foreign automakers are over. Instead, he emphasized that non-union autoworkers are potential future union members, rejecting the idea that they are the enemy. Despite Fain’s critical response, Ford expressed its eagerness to conclude negotiations with a contract that benefits its workers. Ford acknowledged that its contract offer was already a record and the best one on the table.
While negotiations continue, both sides remain productive, building upon the momentum achieved in the past several weeks. However, General Motors declined to comment on Fain’s remarks, citing the details that were already released regarding its most recent offer. The UAW has refrained from expanding strikes at General Motors since September 29 and at Stellantis since September 22, despite the offers made this week not meeting the details of Ford’s proposal from the previous week.
According to Fain, the most aggressive push for the final mile happens right before a deal is struck. He accused the companies of wanting to wait out the UAW, seeking division, fear, and uncertainty. However, Fain emphasized the strength of solidarity among the union’s members.
The strike at Ford’s Kentucky plant had a profound impact on the UAW’s targeted strikes and marked a shift in strategy. Unlike previous instances where the targets were announced before work stoppages occurred, Fain opted for unexpected walkouts, escalating the pressure on the automakers. With the UAW gradually increasing the number of strikes since September 14, approximately 34,000 U.S. autoworkers with the Detroit automakers, representing about 23% of UAW members covered by expired contracts, participated in strikes.
Here are the current proposals made by the automakers to the UAW:
1. Wages: All three automakers have offered a 23% pay increase over four and a half years.
2. Wage Tiers: All three automakers have agreed to eliminate wage tiers at parts facilities where workers historically received lower pay.
3. Wage Progression: Ford and GM have offered a three-year progression to the top wage rate, while Stellantis has only proposed a four-year progression.
4. Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA): Ford has offered to restore its COLA formula to 2009 levels, while GM is approaching restoration, and Stellantis wants to delay COLA adjustments by a year.
5. Job Security: Ford and Stellantis have agreed to allow the union the right to strike over plant closures, a demand rejected by GM.
6. Temporary Workers: Ford and GM have offered conversion plans for current and future temporary workers, while Stellantis has agreed to convert a significant number of current temps to full-time status.
7. Retirement Plans: All three automakers have offered pension benefit increases and increased contributions to 401(k) plans.
8. Payments to Retired Workers: Ford and GM have offered lump sum payments to retired workers, while Stellantis has rejected all increases for retiree pay.
9. Profit Sharing: The automakers have made various offers regarding profit-sharing, with Ford and GM allowing temporary workers to be eligible for profit-sharing payments.
10. Work-Life Balance: All three automakers have proposed making Juneteenth an official paid holiday and offering two weeks of paid parental leave.
These proposals shed light on the multitude of factors that the UAW aims to address in the negotiations to ensure that their members receive the compensation and benefits they deserve.
The ongoing negotiations between the UAW and the Detroit automakers highlight the determination of the UAW to secure better terms for its members. Despite the record-breaking contract offers, the union believes that there is still more to be accomplished, given the challenges faced by auto workers over the years. As negotiations continue, the UAW remains firm in its commitment to protecting the rights and interests of its members.