This week, the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union began outlining demands ahead of contract negotiations with the Big Three Detroit automakers (GM, Ford, and Stellantis). UAW leadership highlighted automaker profits and executive compensation as justification for its own high demands. UAW contracts with the automakers will expire in September.
In a virtual town hall live-streamed over Facebook and Zoom, UAW leaders called for an end to the tiered wage system, stronger job protections against plant closures, and reinstated cost-of-living increases. Leaders didn’t shy away from striking a confrontational tone, saying that soaring corporate profits and millions in compensation for CEOs like Mary Barra, Jim Farley, and Carlos Tavares meant that workforce concessions were no longer a requirement.
“They can afford our demands, and we expect them to pony up,” said UAW President Shawn Fain. “This is our time to get our fair share of the pie.” Fain added that the Big Three’s profits accumulated over the course of the last decade would allow the automakers to collectively purchase every professional baseball, basketball, and hockey team, with billions to spare.
The upcoming negotiations are expected to be rather contentious as the UAW fights for increased wages and benefits, while automakers work to keep costs down in the face of billions invested in the transition to electric vehicles. Nevertheless, union leaders didn’t refrain from threats of a strike.
“The choice of whether or not we go on strike is up to the Big 3,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock. “The companies know what our members deserve, and they can afford to give it to us. They can work with us to make sure we get what we are owed, or they can fight us, and we will be forced to take action.”
The UAW currently has $825 million available in its strike fund, while strike pay was recently increased to $500 per week.
UAW President Fain also promised greater transparency for UAW members heading into talks.
“We’re going to do things differently this round of negotiations. This fight’s not going to be won by [leadership]. This fight’s going to be won because our members are informed, our members are organized, and they’re united,” Fain said.