UAW members at General Motors, Ford and Stellantis voted to ratify their new contracts following the union’s historic “standing strike,” resulting in big gains for workers who have sacrificed much to aftermath of the Great Recession.
“The members have spoken up,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement Monday. “After years of cuts, months of Stand Up and weeks of picketing, we have turned the tide for America’s auto workers. »
According to the union, 64% of voting members approved the contracts.
The gains include salary increases, cost-of-living adjustments, annual bonuses for retirees and the elimination of pay tiers, a controversial practice in which new hires received a lower rate than previous ones, without any possibility of accessing the next level. .
Wage increases range from at least 33% to more than 160% for some of the lowest-paid workers, with tens of thousands of workers receiving immediate increases of more than 40% upon ratification. And now there is a three-year salary progression up to the highest pay rate.
The union also successfully negotiated for Stellantis to reopen its Belvidere, Illinois, factory, which was closed in February, and commit to building a $3.2 billion battery plant there employing more than a thousand unionized workers. According to the union, the company was on track to eliminate some 5,000 hourly jobs in the United States, but is now on track to create more than 5,000. The union also negotiated commitments from the three automakers to integrate thousands of electric vehicle and battery jobs under the union’s national agreements.
Retirees will also receive annual bonuses for the first time in 15 years, and workers hired before 2007 will be entitled to an increase in their pension multiplier for the first time in more than 15 years. The union did not claw back defined benefit pensions for hires after 2007, but the employer contribution to their 401(k)s was increased to 10%, the union says.
The UAW’s 150,000 auto workers went on strike on September 15 under the leadership of newly elected President Shawn Fain, a reform candidate who promised to root out corruption within the union, which saw more than a dozen union officials, including two former presidents, charged with crimes including embezzlement. , bribery and collusion. In response, the U.S. Department of Justice negotiated a consent decree with the union that gave UAW members the ability to choose their leaders by direct vote, which helped elect Fain in a close election where he won by just 500 votes.
A 54-year-old electrician from Kokomo, Indiana, Fain quickly made a name for himself with his Facebook Live addresses, quoting the Bible and social justice figures like Malcolm X and theatrically throwing rejected contracts in the trash. He also positioned his fight as a fight against what has come to be called “late capitalism,” occasionally donning a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Eat the Rich.” Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at a rally in Detroit to support the union’s cause, and President Joe Biden became the first sitting U.S. president to join a picket line, joining Fain and the Willow Run strikers .
The Stand Up Strike strategy was a riff on the famous UAW sit-down strike in Flint in the 1930s, in which workers took over a GM plant and refused to work. During the Stand Up strike, Fain put workers at all three automakers on strike simultaneously for the first time in the union’s history, but staggered the plants in order to preserve the union’s strike fund and also give the union negotiating power over the Big Three.
Fain says he wants to expand the union, with plans to organize workers at non-union factories in the American South, including Tesla, currently the world’s most valuable automaker.
One of Fain’s most eye-catching demands was a 32-hour, four-day work week for five days’ pay, although this proposal was abandoned during negotiations. However, given the success and popularity of four-day workweek experiments around the world, it seems likely that this question will resurface. (This 40-hour, five-day work week, now considered the norm, was once something unions fought for.)
“The Stand Up strike was just the beginning,” Fain said. “The UAW is once again setting the standard. Now we are taking our strike strength and fighting spirit to the rest of the industries we represent, as well as millions of non-union workers ready to stand up and fight for a better way of life.
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