Union Bargaining Begins in Detroit

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

union bargaining begins in detroit

The United Auto Workers (UAW) is commencing contract negotiations with General Motors, Stellantis, and the Ford Motor Company this week. Members of the union’s executive board, along with UAW President Shawn Fain, appeared outside Stellantis' Sterling Heights Assembly Plant early Wednesday morning to draw attention to the talks.

The plan is to see each manufacturer as a preamble to the formal negotiations, which technically begin on Friday. But the union is also desperate to show itself in a better light after expansive corruption scandals implicated some of its now-ousted top brass. For most people living in North America, wages haven’t kept pace with the cost of living and inflationary pressures are exacerbating the issue. If there was ever a time to get the American public back on the side of unions, it’s now.

Wednesday’s press event was a little unusual for the UAW. Normally, contract negotiations are launched with little fanfare. But Fain and friends have said they want to do things differently since assuming control. They don’t even plan on choosing a singular manufacturer on which to focus, despite this being the norm for years. Instead, the union plans on dealing with all three companies simultaneously.

"The strike target is the Big 3," Fain said on Wednesday. "If the Big 3's not going to come to the pump for workers, there's going to be issues."

He’s been promising to stay in close contact with union members and appears willing to play hardball if manufacturers aren’t willing to compromise. While the union has shown itself as willing to strike in recent years, high-profile bribery scandals have undermined its credibility as an organization.

Though it’s not as though the UAW hasn’t enjoyed any wins. The union has managed to negotiate wage increases and limits to the number of temporary employees an automaker can employ. But concessions have also been made in recent years and it could be argued that the overall trajectory for factory workers has been pretty bleak since the early 2000s — if not earlier. 

"Since the Great Recession, we haven't gained, really, anything," Fain explained to the media. "And the companies have made a quarter of a trillion dollars in profits in the last decade."

Automotive News reported that the union head appeared on Facebook Live Tuesday evening to request members fill out support cards. The cards include contact information so the union can keep workers informed on bargaining updates and how they can help. Fain has said he wanted to keep members better appraised than his predecessors had and seems more willing to leverage them into pushing back against the industry.

"We've got to stop this can't-do mentality," he said. "The question I need you to think about is, 'How far are you willing to go to win the contract you deserve?'”

Getting more could be a tall order, however. Offshoring jobs has proven lucrative for domestic manufacturers. Automotive News even released a report suggesting that Ford boasting more U.S. workers than GM or Stellantis places it at a $1 billion annual cost disadvantage.

From AN:

Ford employs roughly 57,000 union workers in the U.S., about 11,000 more than GM and 16,500 more than Stellantis. It has created or retained 14,000 UAW jobs — 5,600 more than it had committed to — since signing its current contract with the union in 2019.
The automaker also has invested $1.4 billion more than what's outlined in the current four-year pact and converted roughly 14,100 temporary workers to permanent status since 2019.
The contract calls for temporary workers to represent no more than 8 percent of Ford's hourly work force; they are currently only 3 percent. Ford is believed to have a significantly lower percentage of temporary workers than GM or Stellantis.
Ford enters its negotiations with the UAW, which formally begin Friday, looking to build on those job and investment commitments. But it's also seeking ways to manage costs and maintain flexibility in its manufacturing footprint as it transitions to electric vehicles.
Compared to foreign automakers that have nonunion workers, Ford has a roughly $9-an-hour labor cost gap. All in, the company said it spends an average of $112,000 on wages and benefits per hourly worker.

Meanwhile, the UAW is expected to push for wage increases and additional benefits for its members. Despite Ford’s bottom line not being quite as robust of late, Shawn Fain has argued that all three Detroit automakers have enjoyed record profits in recent years and should be able to meet the union’s demands while still turning a profit.

He has likewise expressed his intention to reinstate cost-of-living adjustments that were dropped during the 2008 recession and to end a tiered wage system that takes workers years to reach top pay of about $32 an hour.

[Image: UAW]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Join the conversation
2 of 37 comments
  • JamesGarfield JamesGarfield on Jul 25, 2023

    There's a guy here in TX named Randy Adams. He has a car dealership here, and puts on a somewhat interesting radio show on local talk radio.

    Last night, this guy said he strongly expects there's gonna be a huge autoworkers strike in September, which will choke new car inventory even worse than the pandemic did.

    Anybody heard any evidence to support this?

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Aug 11, 2023

    Fain: Where's you're f***ng money?

  • SCE to AUX A question nobody asks is how Tesla sells so many EVs without charge-at-home incentives.Here are some options for you:[list][*]Tesla drivers don't charge at home; they just squat at Superchargers.[/*][*]Tesla drivers are rich, so they just pay for a $2000 charger installation with the loose change in their pocket.[/*][*]Tesla drivers don't actually drive their cars much; they plug into 110V and only manage about 32 miles/day.[/*][/list]
  • SCE to AUX "Despite the EV segment having enjoyed steady growth over the past several years, sales volumes have remained flatter through 2023."Not so. How can EV sales be increasing and flatter at the same time?https://insideevs.com/news/667516/us-electric-car-sales-2023q1/Tesla and H/K/G are all up for EV sales, as are several other brands.
  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."