United Auto Workers begin contract talks in Detroit

United Auto Workers begin contract talks in Detroit

Three Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers union have begun talks on a new labor contract in what could become perhaps the most contentious talks between the two sides in half a century.

The discussion, which formally began Thursday, comes after General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis posted a long series of strong profits in North America, and after the UAW elected a president who has vowed to roll back a number of wage and benefit concessions. Have sworn to In the last two decades, the Sangh has lost its support.

Sean Fein, an outside candidate, scored a disappointing election victory this year over the outgoing UAW chairman largely by promising to take a more aggressive approach to contract negotiations than his recent predecessors. Since then, he has expressed a desire to close the factories to achieve the goals of the union, which represents 150,000 hourly workers employed by the three Detroit companies.

Mr Fain, 54, welcomed workers who ended their shift at the GM Electric Vehicle plant in Detroit on Wednesday, saying: “If the Big Three don’t give us our fair share, they themselves are choosing to strike.” “We are not afraid to take action. Our union is united. We can’t be afraid to stand up and fight.”

A day later, Mr. Fenn outlined his view, breaking with tradition and refusing to attend the usual formal opening of the talks, where in the past the UAW president has posed for photographers as a gesture of goodwill with automakers’ chief executives. had shaken hands with the officers and the television cameras went off before the two sides could make a deal.

Mr. Fenn said, “I will not shake hands with any CEO until they do the right thing by our members and we fix the broken status quo.”

This bargaining is happening because the labor movement in the United States is showing new strength. The Hollywood writers’ strike against film and television producers has entered its third month. Hollywood actors went on strike on Friday. Graduate student teachers – some of whom are represented by the UAW – have been on strike at universities across the country since April. Hotel workers in Los Angeles walked off the job for three days in June.

Over the past few years, more than 300 Starbucks stores, as well as some Trader Joe’s stores, Chipotle restaurants and an Amazon warehouse in New York, have unionized. The Teamsters union is threatening a strike against UPS in August if the two cannot agree on a new contract.

“We are seeing a renewed interest in unions and willingness to strike in very diverse workplaces,” said Harley Schaken, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, who has followed the labor movement for more than three decades. “We don’t know yet how big this movement is going to be and how far it’s going to go.”

The talks coincide with the start of the 2024 presidential election campaign. The UAW traditionally supports the Democratic candidate, but the union has reneged on an endorsement of President Biden in a bid to bolster unions’ support for the White House.

In Detroit, contract negotiations are underway amid a significant change for electric vehicles. GM, Ford and Stellantis are investing billions of dollars in new technologies and battery plants, though so far they have introduced only a handful of new EVs, sales of these vehicles are growing but low, and none of the three automakers haven’t made money out of EV yet

The change is a concern for the union because EVs have far fewer parts than conventional autos – they have no exhaust system, no transmission, no fuel system – and the cost of making them Fewer workers are required. GM, Ford and Stellantis have begun building battery plants with joint venture partners who are not automatically included in UAV’s labor contracts.

The union has organized a GM battery plant in Ohio, but workers there must negotiate their wage rates and conditions separately from the main UAW agreement.

“Electrification presents problems,” said Earl Fuller Jr., GM chairman of Local 160 in Warren, Michigan. “We are seeing jobs being lost, and that needs to be addressed.”

While investing heavily in EVs, automakers are still raking in substantial profits from sales of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, helped by near-record prices for new vehicles. Over the past 10 years, GM and Ford have typically made pretax profits of $7 billion to $11 billion per year in North America. Stellantis, the smallest of the three, has typically generated somewhat lower earnings, though the sector projects its pretax results to exceed $13 billion in 2021 and 2022.

Mr. Chaiken said the union had a lot to contribute to the talks. “The stakes are very high for auto makers with this EV transformation,” he added. “Strikes can be very costly for companies.”

In their estimation, a strike is likely but not certain.

Vehicle manufacturers say they have to bear the loss of labor cost. According to Ford, its hourly cost of UAW labor is $64, and it is estimated to be $9 more than labor costs for foreign-owned automakers with non-union plants in the United States, and $14 more than Tesla. $19 more, which is also used by non-union workers.

In a statement, Ford said it had 57,000 hourly UAW workers, more than its two Detroit rivals, and also produced more vehicles than others in the United States.

“We look forward to working with the UAW on creative solutions during this time when our dramatically changing industry needs a skilled and competitive workforce more than ever,” the company said.

Stellantis said it aimed to negotiate a contract that would ensure its future competitiveness as well as decent wages and benefits. “Together together, we must approach these negotiations with an open mind,” the automaker said.

In the past, GM, Ford and Stellantis have often lost money, or made very little. Each needed concessions from the union in order to survive, and the union steadily agreed to many of the automakers’ demands in a series of contracts that began in 2003.

Health care costs for UAW retirees have been transferred from the automakers to the union trust fund. The union agreed to allow manufacturers to start new hires at about half the rate experienced workers earn at $32 an hour. New employees get 401(k) accounts for retirement instead of a guaranteed pension. While manufacturers are paying substantial profit-sharing bonuses — sometimes more than $10,000 for each worker — the UAW has gone without the cost-of-living adjustments that in the past protected workers from inflation.

In contract negotiations four years ago, the union sought to regain ground on those issues. The automakers agreed to increased hourly wages and profit-sharing, better conditions for temporary workers and revised wage levels, but stopped short of eliminating them for a single pay rate.

GM workers also demanded that the company reverse plans to close a factory in Lordstown, Ohio, and went on strike for 40 days, but eventually approved a contract that allowed the plant to close. .

The 2019 contract included a provision for GM to invest $3 billion in its plant in Detroit, which had also been designated for possible closure. The money was used to convert the site into GM’s flagship EV plant, now called Factory Zero, which produces the electric Cadillac SUV as well as the electric GMC Hummer.

Margaret Hudgins-Washington, 56, a battery operator at the plant, was one of several dozen people who stopped by on Wednesday to talk to Mr Fain. She’s worked there for about a year, makes about $16 an hour, and wants to see an end to the two-tier pay structure.

“Our workers are bearing the brunt of inflation,” he said. “So I think we need better pay.”

He and many others equally supported Mr Fenn’s tough approach.

“I think he’s doing the right thing,” said Kevin Winston, an electrician and father of five children from Brownstown, Michigan. “Now the time has come. I am 100 per cent ready to go on strike, and I have not heard anyone say that we should not go on strike.”

Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 26 = 32