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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UAW and Detroit Three Automakers Resume Talks, Aim to End Strike

The United Auto Workers and Detroit Three automakers resumed bargaining talks Monday morning as a strike at GM, Ford, and Chrysler-parent Stellantis entered its fourth day. Both sides are pressured to reach a deal before the strike ends next week. A prolonged strike could cost the automakers billions in lost revenue and hit their bottom lines while squeezing suppliers and creating hardship for thousands of workers.

GM, Ford, and Stellantis have increased their wage offers by as much as 20% over the last few weeks but still need to catch up on what the union wants. The companies have also rejected the union’s proposals for restoring defined benefit pensions, 32-hour work weeks, and additional cost of living pay hikes. The companies have also shifted to a greater use of temporary employees.

Autoworkers are angry about years of UAW-backed concessions that allowed corporations to halve the wages of new hires, abolish pensions for some new hires and retirees, eliminate the automatic cost of living raises, and allow the hiring of part-time workers to replace full-time workers without a raise. Many of these workers have been forced to take second jobs and live below the poverty line. The strike highlighted the gap between rich and poor in America, where wealthier Americans have gained a massive advantage over working-class households in recent decades.

A strike has halted production at several plants that make big pickup trucks and SUVs, including GM’s in Michigan and Ohio. It has also halted production at Ford’s assembly plant in Toledo, which makes popular models such as the Bronco and Jeep Wrangler. The strike has also disrupted GM’s efforts to launch electric vehicles, which the company hopes will help the company avoid a future that is dominated by low-profit SUVs and pickups.

The union has targeted only three automakers instead of the entire industry to limit the impact of a strike and preserve its strike fund. Strategically, this gives the union flexibility to stop production at more plants when it reopens negotiations with the companies, analyst Benjamin Salisbury of Height Securities said. But the move is risky because it will stifle demand for cars and reduce the money paid to workers, he added.

President Joe Biden sent his aides, Gene Sperling and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, to Detroit to urge the automakers to negotiate in good faith. “The companies have made some significant offers, but I believe they should go further to ensure that record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW,” Biden said, according to Axios.

During the weekend, top union officials skipped the ceremonial handshakes and met with rank-and-file members at Ford, GM, and Stellantis factories to apply more pressure. The union says 97% of its members have authorized a strike. It’s a first in the union’s more than 80-year history.

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