UAW President Rejects Stellantis’ 21% Wage Raise Offer

The president of the United Auto Workers union on Sunday rejected a public offer from Jeep parent Stellantis to raise wages by 21% over four years, pushing back a historic, coordinated strike against the Big Three to a third day. car manufacturers in the country.

Stellantis, based in the Netherlands and created in 2021 by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s Peugeot, said on Saturday it had offered the union a “highly competitive” 21% pay increase. The union said it had “reasonably productive” conversations with Ford on Saturday and also planned to meet with GM. Both companies proposed increases of 20 percent over four years.

But on Sunday morning, UAW President Shawn Fain said Stellantis’ 21% offer and other conditions presented by the automakers were not enough and that the strike would continue.

“It’s definitely banned,” Fain said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” He added: “We have demanded salary increases of 40 percent. And the reason we’ve asked for 40 percent pay increases is because in the last four years alone, CEO pay has increased by 40 percent.

About 12,700 UAW members, or 8 percent of the union’s auto workers, went on strike Friday, demanding wage increases and fairer treatment and benefits for temporary workers, including wages have lagged behind full-time workers for years. This is the first time the UAW has gone on strike against the three largest U.S. automakers at once.

Why UAW Workers Say They’re on Strike

The strike comes as U.S. unemployment is at an all-time low, but fallout from the pandemic and rising inflation have increased workers’ anxiety. Companies have continued to post profits and raise executive pay, and autoworkers are part of a broad surge in union activity in the United States, as workers from nurses to screenwriters and Hollywood actors, are looking for better salaries and better job security.

Although the UAW strike only affects a handful of factories, Fain said the union is prepared to do “whatever it takes” and increase work stoppages. “If we don’t get better deals and work harder to meet members’ needs, we’re going to escalate things even further,” Fain said.

Fain’s comments tempered any hope generated by Saturday’s negotiations for a quick resolution. The union is demanding a 36 percent raise over four years, a four-day work week, defined benefit pensions and company-funded health care during retirement. Automakers have countered that their offers to the union are among the best in history, but that they cannot meet all of their demands while remaining profitable.

A Stellantis spokesperson said the company would resume negotiations with the UAW on Monday. Spokespeople for Ford and GM did not respond to requests for comment.

“We all hope this ends as soon as possible. But record profits were generated,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY), traveling to Detroit on Sunday. “It is only right that everyone shares in the record benefits of the prosperity that has been created.”

Over the weekend, workers gathered on picket lines at factories where the UAW had launched the strike. The atmosphere was high as supporters brought supplies and honked their car horns in a show of solidarity.

“We want to be middle class again,” said Andrew Hudson, a production worker on strike outside Ford’s assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, where the company makes Ranger trucks and Bronco SUVs. A few weeks ago, Hudson reached Ford’s top pay rate of $32 an hour, but it took him six years to get there. He is on strike mainly because he doesn’t want his new colleagues to have to wait so many years to get the best pay, as he had to do, he said.

“We can’t live the American dream that so many auto workers before us, like my grandfather, were able to live,” said Hudson, whose grandfather was able to own a house and two cars while putting her children through college on an auto worker’s salary. In contrast, Hudson said he and his colleagues “struggle” to do the same with their own salaries.

Nicholas Harvey, 33, a single father working in material handling, said he was on strike for higher pay. At $24.85 an hour, he said he had to move back in with his parents after he separated from his wife. “It was a very coveted job,” he said. “But I’m paycheck to paycheck. I want to own a house, save money for (my children’s) college, but it’s hard to save.

Meanwhile, the specter of the presidential election loomed over the strike, as politicians from both parties weighed in. President Biden and former President Donald Trump, the leading front-runner in the Republican race, have taken contrasting approaches, with Biden saying automakers should match their “record corporate profits” with “record contracts” for workers and Trump criticizing the UAW president. Biden said Friday he would send two of his senior advisers to offer help in reaching a deal.

Midwestern states where auto factories are traditionally concentrated, including Michigan, are expected to be key battlegrounds in the 2024 elections. But Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) warned Sunday that politicians should keep their distance . “I don’t believe the president should intervene or be at the negotiating table,” Dingell told CBS.

For his part, Fain said another Trump presidency would be a “disaster,” but he stopped short of supporting Biden, saying the president must earn his nickname as the nation’s “most pro-union president.” history.

Trump and other Republicans have criticized Democrats for pushing the country toward electric vehicles, many of which are not built in the United States. Democrats said companies must consider their workers while promoting the transition to more climate-friendly cars. Chinese companies like BYD currently dominate the global electric vehicle market, and even American companies like Tesla order their batteries, the key part of an electric car, from foreign manufacturers.

“Anyone who doesn’t believe in global warming isn’t paying attention,” Fain said Sunday. “But this transition must be a just transition. As things stand, workers are being left behind.

The Big Three automakers have ramped up their design and production of electric vehicles as Americans’ interest in purchasing these cars continues to grow. But a major strike could hamper that transition and traditional automakers’ ability to catch up with foreign rivals and electric-only producers like Tesla, said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

“A long, nasty strike… would be an absolute debacle for the Detroit Three,” Ives said. Any delay in ramping up production of electric vehicles will benefit Tesla, which faces growing competition from traditional automakers, he added.

Lauren Kaori Gurley in Wayne, Michigan, contributed to this report.

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