UAW, Unifor Strike Out Against Two-Tier Wages

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon
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uaw unifor strike out against two tier wages

Last weekend, 760 UAW workers at the Lear facility in Hammond, Ind. — where Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant receives its seats — went on strike against two-tier wages, winning a tentative contract that eliminates the system. This, in turn, may be a sign of more such actions to come as the union seeks to end the two-tier system throughout the industry.

Automotive News reports the last time a strike occurred was in 2007, when workers at General Motors gently applied the brakes on production for 41 hours after a concessionary contract that introduced two-tier wages to all of the automaker’s U.S. facilities. Since then, a hard recession and rough recovery have kept striking off the table.

In 2014, however, economic conditions have improved to the point where both UAW and Unifor are more than willing to throw down to get what they want. Unifor president Jerry Dias went so far as to threaten supplier Johnson Controls and GM with production stoppages and strike actions if the supplier went through with its plan to close an interior plant in Ontario. In turn, Johnson Controls kept the plant open and gave workers some additional bonuses.

As contracts between the Detroit Three and the unions come up for negotiation beginning in January 2015, the elimination of the two-tier system will be on the table. Whether striking will come into play depends on how willing the automakers are on keeping the system in place.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • Xeranar Xeranar on Sep 17, 2014

    Boring misconceptions about two-tier wages abound. I'm not about to sit here and respond to these perceptions because frankly I don't have the time and energy. Suffice to say the two-tier wage system was implemented as a stop-gap measure by the automakers that was designed to appease the unions only in the nature that it prolonged this theoretical 'inevitable' but as we've seen these plants aren't closing down and after getting a slow but resolute win in Chattanooga attacking the two-tier system is pretty spot on for the direction that organized labor is going. Simply put the left is more open to supporting organized labor again, in fact it shrunk during the last recession even further but unionization is on the rebound and with the right's political ambitions suffering major setbacks due to demographics this is a prime time to strike. Now to be interesting, if conservatives didn't lash out right after WWII there is scientific conjecture that the US would look much more like the Scandinavians in terms of social conditions which is intriguing. Basically it came down to the desperation of capitalists to slow and reverse unionization which put the center-right back in balance in this country and now nearly 70 years later are we finally teetering back towards center-left. Please banter amongst yourselves about union 'greed' and all the 'plants rushing to Mexico' now.

    • Geeber Geeber on Sep 18, 2014

      It wasn't those mean old conservatives who prevented the U.S. from becoming a gigantic version of Sweden. Aside from the differences in demographics, ethnic make-up of the population and lower population densities, any attempt to imitate Scandinavia was pretty much lost once the restrictions on immigration were lifted in the mid-1960s. That effort, by the way, was not spearheaded by conservatives. Even Scandinavian nations don't look as much like the Scandinavian nations of the past (particularly Sweden) because of immigration over the past few decades.

  • Mikehgl Mikehgl on Sep 17, 2014

    Two tier wage platforms ( or multiple tiers) are common practice in other unionized industries ,such as service jobs. That's just the reality of today's America. Sad, but true. Oh, and right to work legislation is going to wreak havoc on the union I belong to, the UFCW. My local is expecting up to 50% opt out when the current contract expires. But they got no one to blame but themselves.The UFCW has been shoving sub-par contracts down the rank and files throats for decades. It is to the point now that new hires can get better wages and benefits at a nonunion work place because the so called union won benefits are so paltry. Pathetic.

  • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Sep 17, 2014

    "It is to the point now that new hires can get better wages and benefits at a nonunion work place because the so called union won benefits are so paltry." Do tell! I have heard of such, but Xeranar is never in the mood to tell us all more about it. And he specializes in this discipline! Or so he says.

    • Xeranar Xeranar on Sep 18, 2014

      And you're exactly why I don't bother. Anecdotal evidence in various positions is anecdotal. I'm actually very sure I gave you the EXACT reasoning atleast a half-dozen times before I simply stopped bothering. I mean frankly you're a white middle-class conservative, you're the exact people who are unlikely to care and I've heard your sob story of how unions kicked your puppy and ruined EVERYTHING for you and yet I can't help but point to my own story where my parents were unionized and received good wages and my father tried to unionize his company but came up shy and suffered for it. So please, do tell me again HDC why you're so rich and powerful and how the economy is just a Horatio Alger story waiting to happen for everybody! But seriously, you dislike my view but you never can find a valid citation to justify your position outside of some right-wing think tanks. You aren't exactly batting 1.000 here...

  • Mikehgl Mikehgl on Sep 18, 2014

    I'm not white collar ( obviously, I have belonged to a union for almost 35 years) but I do tend to lean towards the conservative side, more so now as I get older. I have watched my union relinquish work place gains with every single contract while encouraging the rank and file to accept the contracts as "the best package achievable under the current economic conditions" The rep will visit the stores ,touting the miniscule wage gains to get approval of the package. It is only later that language buried in the contract comes to light, negatively affecting employees. To those employees hired in the last 10 years or so, the union is viewed as completely irrelevant and nothing more than a annoying cash deduction ( union dues) on their take home pay. Once the rest of the long term employees (like me) retire (with a pension, something done away with in the last contract) the union will probably serve almost no purpose and will have significantly reduced strength as those left opt out.