By on August 23, 2019

The United Automobile Workers are tallying strike votes as union leadership decides which contract terms are worth fighting over. While this is par for the course in any contract negotiation with General Motors, Ford, or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, this year’s talks have been mired in scandal and economic uncertainty.

Despite the continued strength of the U.S. economy, the automotive industry has been busily preparing itself for a global recession — encouraging quite a bit of restructuring over the past year. Meanwhile, the UAW finds itself the subject of a federal corruption probe that has severely undermined its credibility. We know that at least one automaker, Fiat Chrysler, was actively bribing union officials. Following the recent conviction of the former head of the union’s FCA Department, Norwood Jewell, General Motors has also been implicated

“This conduct strikes at the core of who we are and what we stand for. Almost 50 years ago, UAW delegates adopted our Ethical Practices Code,” a union statement said in response to the growing scandal. “This Code must always be at the center of any decision by our officers, and states that actions taken by Union officials must be guided solely and unfailingly by serving our members and this Union. Anything less is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The UAW has a lot working against it. Corruption charges have sown seeds of distrust within the union. There’s also a growing disparity between longterm union members and new ones in terms of pay. According to Wards Auto, older workers making $31 per hour have pulled down hefty profit-sharing checks but newer workers are making closer to $13 per hour and receive little in the way of profit sharing or benefits.

As nice as a wage bump would be, manufacturers are growing increasingly concerned about their bottom line. R&D costs are rising, labor hasn’t gotten any cheaper, and most firms have been hemorrhaging cash as they attempt to buy their way into electric vehicles, autonomous driving, and data-based services. The trade war has also made materials and supply chains more expensive over a period where sales growth is heading in the wrong direction worldwide.

However, union members are looking at the tasty gains the industry witnessed over the last few years. While the general climate may not look appealing, most automakers are still enjoying healthy profits. Workers don’t see any reason why companies can’t share.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot standing in the way of that actually happening. Assuming America’s automakers agree to a wage increase, they’ll likely incorporate that sum into how much labor they plan on accepting from the UAW in the future. In order to get the best deal possible, negotiations may have to focus on plant investments — which would help secure regional jobs — or profit sharing. Of course, absent wage increases are usually the kind of thing union members like to strike over.

Currently, GM and Ford hook up UAW employees with $1,000 for every $1 billion made in North America. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler pays $800 for every 1 percent added to its profit margin. So long as companies continue making money, it usually translates into more money for workers overall. This unfortunately does not guarantee a payday like a wage hike would.

Local unions have been asked to have their tallies in by August 29th to provide adequate time before labor agreements expire in September. For what it’s worth, experts are not optimistic about the possibility of avoiding strikes.

[Image: General Motors]

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31 Comments on “UAW Counting Strike Votes As Contract Negotiations Continue...”

  • avatar

    Back to their old tricks again, biting the hand that feeds them.

    You’d think after the bailouts, handouts and nationalization in 2009 they would have learned something.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “This conduct strikes at the core of who we are and what we stand for.”

    Thanks for the laugh.

    Every UAW/Unifor member should realize that the union only serves its leadership, not the rank and file. They’ll be the last ones out the door after you’re long gone.

    “Workers don’t see any reason why companies can’t share.” For starters, all the reasons listed in the article.

    Also, I notice a deafening silence lately on the UAW’s efforts to unionize the transplants. I guess it’s hard to convince happy, well-paid workers that they should pay dues to corrupt union officials, with no increase in job security.

    • 0 avatar

      If I worked at one of the transplants, I’d be busy trying to make sure that some other union got voted in, just to make it even harder for the UAW to get a foothold. I seriously am beginning to think the UAW is the worst international union in the world. It’s bringing a black eye to all of organized labor.

      • 0 avatar

        The SEIU makes the UAW look like friends of liberty.

        You almost have to feel for the UAW. They’re basically Boxer in “Animal Farm.” They’ve carried the ball as far as they’re going to go for global marxism. The glue factory beckons, and neither pigs nor farmers have any use left for them.

        • 0 avatar

          The UAW situation here is far worse than any trouble SEIU has gotten into, because SEIU has had a bunch of scattershot local scandals while this went straight to the very top of the UAW international. International unions are hard to hold accountable because they’re so far from the membership, and if the international is corrupt, membership in one of its locals is more or less worthless.

          • 0 avatar

            All that was known, but previous administrations did not want their DOJ investigating unions because of their mass and voting-block political clout in elections.

            President Trump and Atty Gen Barr have no such fears. Trump because he is a populist President voted into office by We, The People, and Barr because he’s been there before and done that already.

            But I believe they will both run out of time before they can send ALL the crooked critters to do hard time, even if Trump gets re-elected by a landslide.

            Barr is no longer a young man and maybe the end of Trump’s first term will also be the end of Barr’s tour as Atty Gen.

      • 0 avatar

        @dal20402 – the Teamsters went through their own corruption scandals and I doubt they fully recovered. This scandal would be bad enough for the UAW in a “labour friendly” country but in the USA, it could be catastrophic. Unfortunately one has to view organized labour as one views any political system. Corruption always starts to creep into the hierarchy.

        • 0 avatar

          I have a friend who works at the Teamsters international. They are quite above board today, but there’s no question they are a shadow of what they used to be, and the reason is past corruption.

  • avatar

    Given the tepid sales currently, I’d think any of the big three would be happy to give the UAW boys and girls a month or two off without pay. That’s why there won’t be a strike.

    I was at GM in ’70 when the UAW went on strike for 67 days. That had a big impact on the national economy and was front page news. If that happened today, would anybody outside the car biz even notice?

    • 0 avatar
      TheDumbGuy-formerly JoeBrick

      @Indy500Fan- ” If that happened today, would anybody outside the car biz even notice?”
      Oh, I suspect that if there is a strike, EVERYONE WILL NOTICE, due to the political implications- possible recession, 2020 election, etc. you know.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Highdesertcat – fake news. The UAW investigation of FCA was started in 2012 under Obama’s DOJ.

    • 0 avatar

      Dave M., those were the incidents where the members were smokin’ and tokin’ and drinkin’ while on their breaks. The people caught were fired, and then quietly rehired once the ruckus died down.

      And the only reason that investigation was started was because there was VIDEO evidence….. Who knew!?

      After the people were rehired, it never went any further.

      Difference is, in the current circumstances, people are going to jail doing hard time.

      None of that “goin’ to prison” happened during the previous administration.

  • avatar

    You really want to do this as the market is getting soft?

  • avatar

    My prediction , based on past practice /experience ??? We’ll hear lots of noise, sabre rattling , rhetoric, and brinkmanship, from both sides… Maybe a couple of shifts losses, just to blow off steam ..?? Nothing long term .

  • avatar

    Assuming there is a strike, I would expect it to be against Ford, for a couple reasons –

    Ford sold 900,000 F150’s last year. No other U.S. manufacturer (as far as I know) sold anything close to that in a single model. So if the UAW wants to strike the most powerful blow it can: stop building F150’s.

    Ford has not been involved in the scandals so far while FCA and GM have… so the visuals are better.

    Finally, where car buyers who couldn’t get a GM or Ford because of a strike might flip and ‘settle’ for a non-UAW (I almost said foreign) car, pickup truck buyers have no place to go.

    I believe there WILL be a strike, because the economy is good, and a lot of those ‘second tier’ “low paid” UAW workers are feeling left out. It won’t be the old boys with fat checks and profit-sharing voting to strike, but not enough of them will vote NO to prevent the strike from happening. Additionally, the UAW is looking weakened by the scandals. They will want a strike to provide that they are still powerful.

  • avatar

    “At the factory gates Thursday afternoon, Fiat Chrysler workers were anxious to talk to reporters from the World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter about the issues they want addressed in the new contracts.”-
    No wonder that they are not worried about striking on the verge of a possible recession- they are being egged on by their socialist ‘buddies’.

    • 0 avatar

      LOL. If you knew any actual leftists, you would know that more often than not unions and socialists are at each other’s throats, for reasons having to do more with power politics than ideology. To translate into a world you actually know, imagine if someone claimed the Dick Cheney neocons went running to blue-collar Trump supporters for help.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Lokki–Good assessment, Ford would be the one to strike against. I agree that additional truck sales would not go to Toyota or Nissan but crossover sales might increase for the Japanese and South Korean manufacturers. I doubt if a strike would last too long because a long strike would hurt the supply of full size pickups.

  • avatar

    OK, I have a question here. Am I right in assuming that GM, Ford, and FCA workers in Mexico are NOT members of the UAW ? Of course, I know that Canadian autoworkers are members of an equivalent union, but what about Mexican workers ? If there is a strike, will Mexican-made cars and trucks still be made and imported ? I assume so. And cars and trucks will still be coming in from Canada, right ?

    • 0 avatar

      Who ever is the strike target could also just choose certain plants to go out at first without shutting down the whole auto maker thus not draining the strike fund!

      • 0 avatar

        Wait a minute- the UNION picks which plants to strike. The ‘strike target’ does not pick which plants are struck. We are not reading from the same page here…maybe saying the same thing but not using the same terms…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would assume you are correct.

  • avatar

    Barra (the unbearable) and Hackett (hatchet-man) have made things almost unbearable for their employees. Short sighted product cancellations and embracing unproven exotic technologies have caused frustration for employees and share holders. A short strike could prematurely force-out these two incompetent CEOs. Their very actions in the last two years have brought about the possibility of a strike. They have nobody else to blame but themselves.

  • avatar

    If I had to look at those things coming down the line, I’d strike, too.

    Just say no to ugly trucks.

  • avatar

    Australian designers were supposed to improve things at GM.

  • avatar

    If I were the UAW I’d demand that GM hire product designers with skills above a five year old and eyes that are functional. The evidence of pathetic styling at GM is manifold and the truck in the picture makes you want to pour acid into your eyes to prevent ever seeing the hideous visage that these things have acquired.

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