Yesterday, we greeted news that Detroit had reached wage parity with transplants by noting that it hardly makes the UAW look great in the eyes of its membership. Sure enough, UAW boss-in-waiting Bob King is firing back in today’s Detroit Free Press, arguing that a return to a 16m unit market would yield “astronomical” profits to GM and Chrysler. As a result, he said,
There was equality of sacrifice, there’s got to be equality of gain. It’s our responsibility to make sure that in that turnaround, our members are treated fairly
According to King, UAW members have given up between $7,000 and $30,000 per year in concessions, but wouldn’t speculate on the prospect of next year’s contract negotiations. Whether those talks will yield further concessions or a reversal in fortunes for the union depends on the economy and the membership, said King. On one point, he was less equivocal: when it comes to the one domestic automaker that the UAW doesn’t own a stake in, King and the UAW are maintaining a hard line.
Before becoming heir apparent to UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, King was the union’s chief negotiator with Ford. Recently, King filed a grievance against Ford for restoring benefits to salaried workers
without reciprocating to union members. And despite the fact that the UAW went to bat (symbolically, of course) for Delphi’s salaried employees when they lost benefits, and the fact that GM still pays its white-collar employees more than the transplants, King is still hopping mad about it. He tells AFP
I’m very upset with the situation (at Ford) where there were merit increases and 401K (retirement plan contributions). That’s wrong. None of that in my view of the contract should have happened without our membership, getting the same thing. Our membership made tremendous sacrifices. We had an understanding about equality of sacrifice. We’ve filed grievances on that and we’re close to resolving one piece of that.
Again, GM pays its average white collar worker over $50k more than its average hourly worker, while the differential at transplants is about $10k per year… but the union is OK with it because it owns 17.5 percent of that company. Ford, on the other hand, is the bad guy. You have to imagine there’s a little nostalgia for the “good old days” of pattern bargaining in Dearborn right about now.