UAW To Protest Two-Tier Wages At NAIAS

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

As the biggest week in the American auto industry, the annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit regularly attracts a sideshow of protesters bent on sending a message to the hordes of executives and analysts who cram Cobo Hall. In 2009, UAW members marched against the possibility that the auto bailout (then still a work-in-progress) would require union concessions. Last year, Tea Party groups rallied to protest the government’s ownership of GM and Chrysler, while UAW members counter-rallied in support of the bailout (apparently those concessions weren’t so bad). This year will be no exception to the trend, as dissident UAW members will be protesting the union’s two-tier wage system, a pre-bailout concession that has created considerable controversy of late. And they’ll be getting support (if only in word, not action) from across their friends from the North, as the Canadian Auto Worker boss has recently called for an end to the two-tier system, saying

That has to be a strategy of the UAW to gradually get out of the two-tiered system. I don’t know if it can happen overnight, but they’ve got to start sending signals to future employees that the low, tiered wages are not something that can sustain families long term

And there’s an interesting point to be made there. After all,

New hires at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors plants in the U.S. are paid $14 an hour, half of the regular hourly rate. In Canada, new hires earn about $24 an hour – 70 per cent of the regular hourly rate – and reach parity over a six-year period.

But the CAW isn’t necessary calling for a single wage for all union workers… after all, that would require sacrifice from existing members. Instead, CAW boss Ken Lewenza argues

GM and Chrysler cleared out a lot of debt, so they’re in good shape. Ford is having a remarkable turnaround based on product and increased market share so you’ve got to take advantage of it. So, Id like to think sacrifice bargaining is behind us.

Maybe someday the auto worker unions will find a single sustainable wage that works for all workers as well as the firms that hire them, but that day seems as far away as ever. In the meantime, angry protests should make for an interesting counterpoint to the glitz and cocktail receptions that otherwise define NAIAS. TTAC will definitely make a point of visiting the protest scheduled for this Sunday in hopes of better understanding the conflicted state of the United Auto Workers. After all, union leaders seem more interested in snagging seats on the boards of the Detroit automakers [sub] than listening to its members.

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  • PeteMoran PeteMoran on Jan 08, 2011

    I don't have much to add, except that I seek out the comments of psarhjinian. Always thoughtful and cogent. Cheers Mate. Anyone interested in why the USofA is broken should read The United States Of Inequality - it takes a bit of work over perhaps an hour's reading, but it's worth it.

    • See 3 previous
    • Itsgotvtakyo Itsgotvtakyo on Jan 09, 2011

      My man, this country has never existed to make things easy for everyone. Things are really tough for a lot of folks right now and I'm grateful I have job security and a hefty paycheck. You're sorely mistaken in you thought everything in this country was just a cake walk no matter what. I've never been to your country but I bet it's interesting, fascinating and enriching. But i also bet you have to work really fing hard to make a decent life for yourself and your loved ones, just like we do here.

  • Omnifan Omnifan on Jan 08, 2011

    The UAW complains about government, but then hides behind its cash. Tier Two wages were created so that GM and Chrysler could get govt bailouts. That's the price of admission, brothers. Unions are just as guilty as senior management in the auto crisis. How many stewards, committeemen, etc are on the payroll when a fraction of that number would do? People who add nothing to the assembly process, people who get paid overtime for no value added, even caught on local TV drinking and getting haircuts on company time.

    • Ixim Ixim on Jan 08, 2011

      The only thing the UAW has going for it this time around is the improvement in the fiscal health of the industry. That, and whatever voting strength its membership still can muster. I remember the widespread support unions enjoyed back in the day; the reversal of that backing, as seen here on TTAC and elsewhere is bad news for them. Anyhow, the merits of the arguments aside, the new UAW contracts will, as usual, be decided by the relative clout - economic, political, cultural, and image - of the two sides. I don't see the union bringing home much new bacon. One day, a new middle class will be built here, meanwhile, the destruction of the old one will continue.

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