UAW head says union has ‘cards left to play’ as contract negotiations continue

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain talks with members picketing near a General Motors Assembly Plant in Delta Township, on Sept. 29. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

By Michigan Advance

October 23, 2023

BY KYLE DAVIDSON, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—As the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the Detroit Three automakers stretches into its fifth week, President Shawn Fain said Friday afternoon that the union “has cards left to play” in negotiations.

“In the past 24 hours, we’ve gotten new offers from two of the three companies. So despite all the bluster about how much the companies have stretched, there’s clearly still room to move,” Fain said.

Fain offered updates on contract negotiations with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, alongside support for workers at Mack Truck, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, members of the Detroit Casino Council and a number of other workers in the midst of strikes or contract negotiations during a livestream on Friday.

He did not call on any new plants to join the strike.

Fain also praised the “incredible courage and fortitude” of striking workers who had been on the picket line since the strike began on Sept. 15, saying victory for the union would come through solidarity.

“Let me tell you what the companies’ path to victory is: fear, uncertainty, doubt and division,” Fain said.

“Every time these company executives open their mouth, it is to increase the fear, increase the uncertainty, and increase the doubt among the membership. They win when we lose our sense of purpose, when we lose our sense of unity,” Fain said.

Fain also addressed concerns from members.

“I’ve heard some members asking: When will we vote on this? Some members think maybe we’ve gotten as far as we can get and it’s time to settle. I want to be clear. The membership is the highest authority in our union. You will always have the final say,” Fain said.

“When we vote on a tentative agreement it will be because your leadership and your council thinks we’ve gotten absolutely every dollar we can,” Fain said.

As negotiations have continued, the Detroit Three have touted “record offers” to the union. While Fain agreed these were already record contracts, he said they’ve come at the end of decades of record decline for members.

“When auto workers have gone backwards over the last two decades. That’s a very low bar,” Fain said.

Fain also said it was a “pathetic irony” that each company’s record offer was followed by another days later.

Although Fain reported serious movement in contract negotiations with GM and Stellantis, the UAW is continuing to tussle with Ford.

The union announced it was expanding its stand up strike to include Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant on Oct. 11, prompting a walkout of about 8,700 workers at the company’s most profitable plant.

Fain criticized comments from Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford from earlier this week, calling on the UAW and the company to work as a team to compete with foreign automakers.

“The days of the UAW and Ford being a team to fight other companies are over. We won’t be used in this phony competition. We will always and forever be on the side of working people everywhere. Non-union auto workers are not the enemy. Those are our future union family,” Fain said.

“We’re not going to partner with Ford in a race to the bottom. And we’re not going to partner with the big three to match the low standards of the non-union automakers,” he said.

Companies offer 23% wage hike

While sharing updates on contract negotiations from the automakers, Fain highlighted progress alongside sticking points in each of the companies’ offers.

Before the Friday livestream, GM released a statement on its latest offer, saying it had made substantial movement toward a final agreement with the UAW.

“It is time for us to finish this process, get our team members back to work and get on with the business of making GM the company that will win and provide great jobs in the U.S. for our people for decades to come,” the statement read.

All three of the Detroit automakers have offered 23% wage increases and have agreed to eliminate wage tiers, Fain said.

Although the union has negotiated Ford’s wage progression down from an eight years to fully implement to a three-year progression, Stellantis has remained at a four-year progression. GM wants a two-tier progression, with three years for current employees and four years for future hires.

“Obviously, that’s not gonna fly. If Ford can do it so can GM and Stellantis, and we are not adding a new tier,” Fain said.

While the UAW has negotiated cost-of-living adjustments at Ford back to their formula from 2009, and is getting close at GM, Stellantis’s offer remains deficient, Fain said.

The union also negotiated profit sharing for temporary workers at Ford and GM, but not Stellantis. Negotiations have also led to offers of higher temporary workers wages at Ford and GM. Ford is also offering to convert all current temporary workers who have worked at least 90 hours to full-time employees, while GM is offering to convert all temporary employees one year of employment to full-time workers.

Meanwhile, Stellantis is offering temporary worker wages of $20 an hour, Fain said.

“At all three [companies], we’re still negotiating a pathway for future temps to get converted to end the abuse of these members. We’re fighting hard to win language across the Big Three that will make sure that temporary work is just that: temporary,” Fain said.

While the union has won the right to strike over plant closures from Ford and Stellantis, GM has not budged, Fain said.

The UAW is also still negotiating for additional holiday and paid parental leave, Fain said.

All three companies are now offering a $3 increase to their retirement pension multiplier and additional 401(k) contributions. However, Ford and Stellantis are offering a 9.5% employer contribution, while GM is offering 8%, Fain said.

Ford is also offering retirees a $250 annual lump sum payment, while GM has offered a one-time $1,000 payment. Stellantis has not offered anything on that front, Fain said.

In a graphic breaking down each company’s retirement offer, the union called GM’s and Ford’s payment offers “deeply inadequate.”

While GM and Stellantis have gotten the message and caught up to Ford in negotiations, GM remains worrying, Fain said.

“They tell us they need a two-tier wage progression because they expect to do a lot of hiring. At the same time, they threaten product and won’t give us the right to strike over plant closures. I wonder how members at Arlington and Flint Truck feel about that,” Fain said.

Stellantis has its issues, as well, Fain said.

“They’re still at a four-year progression. They’re still at just $20 for temp workers. They’ve rejected all increases to retiree pay. I know plenty of members at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, and in Kokomo who aren’t going to like that,” Fain said.

Fain also said he wondered what workers at Ford’s River Rouge Complex thought of Bill Ford’s speech earlier this week.

According to a report from NBC, Ford, who was speaking at the Rouge Complex, said future investments and “factories like the one we are in today” would be lost if automakers cannot compete with foreign automakers.

“The bottom line is: We’ve got cards left to play, and they’ve got money left to spend. That’s the hardest part of a strike. Right before a deal is when there is the most aggressive push for that last mile,” Fain said.

“They want division. They want fear. They want uncertainty. And what we have is our solidarity,” Fain said.

Following Fain’s livestream, Stellantis released a statement on the state of negotiations.

“Negotiations between Stellantis and the UAW continue to be productive, building on the momentum from the past several weeks,” the statement read.

“We have made progress on narrowing the gaps on significant issues that will bring immediate financial gains and job security for our employees. Our focus remains on resolving those issues as soon as possible and finding solutions that protect the company and our employees,” it read.

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

Author

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This