The United Auto Workers labor union, or UAW, intends to start contract negotiations with GM and the other two companies making up the “Detroit Three” over the next two weeks as the current four-year contract nears its expiration.
UAW negotiators will start talks with The General last of all, according to a recent Reuters report.
Talks with cross-town rival Stellantis – the parent of Ram, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and a dozen other automotive brands – will begin first, on Thursday, July 13th, 2023, per statements by the UAW. Union negotiations with Ford will start the next day, Friday, July 14th, and talks with GM will begin last of all on next Tuesday, July 18th.
The UAW has its sights set on several ambitious negotiating goals, seeking several major changes to the union contract rather than simply looking for renewal of current contractual terms, which are set to expire in September 2023.
According to Reuters, one significant demand is the return of retiree benefits and cost-of-living pay adjustments, which were dropped almost a decade and a half ago during the Great Recession. Another is elimination of the two-tier pay system that sees new workers receive up to 25 percent less pay than longer-term members. A third demand is unionization of GM’s growing number of Ultium battery plants.
The UAW continues to use the militant, aggressive tone adopted by its recently elected president Shawn Fain and other leadership figures. In a mid-June video, the UAW accused the Detroit Three of neglecting their workers while richly rewarding their executives out of the over $250 billion in profits raked in by the automakers during the past 10 years.
The union’s vice president Rich Boyer stated “Big Three executives have lavished themselves with fat salaries while auto workers continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck, and can’t even keep up with inflation.” UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock followed up by remarking “we want strong job security guarantees that protect our work, families, and communities.”
The report notes the UAW has also held off on endorsing President Joe Biden’s bid for reelection. The union offered sharp criticism of Biden’s EV policy, with UAW president Fain blasting the government’s “giveaways” to automakers for the switch to electric vehicles.
Fain further noted the Detroit Three are pursuing their battery plant development plans with “no consideration for wages, working conditions, union rights or retirement security.” Outside analysts partly echo some of his criticisms by predicting billions in automaker losses leading to more job and wage cuts, directly caused by the switch to low-volume, costly EVs.
Further EV-related disputes between GM and the UAW recently arose over safety issues at the GM Ultium Cells LLC plant in Ohio. Shawn Fain once again weighed in, remarking “it’s not just the low pay, these jobs are often dangerous” and declaring “it’s time to build an EV industry that puts workers first.”