Auto industry strike continues as UAW chief Shawn Fain demands "fair share"

17:55 18.09.2023 - CBS News

The auto workers' strike against Detroit's Big Three went into its fourth day with no signs of an early breakthrough and against the threat that the walkout could soon spread.

A spokesman for General Motors said that representatives of the company and the United Auto Workers were continuing to negotiate on Monday.

So far the strike is limited to about 13,000 workers at three factories - one each at GM, Ford Motor and Stellantis. GM warned, however, that 2,000 UAW-represented workers at an assembly plant in Kansas City are "expected to be idled as soon as early this week" because of a shortage of supplies from a GM plant near St. Louis, where workers walked off the job Friday.

Workers at the Kansas City plant build the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac XT4.

Ford on Friday moved to temporarily lay off 600 non-striking workers at its assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, only hours after other employees at the facility had walked off the job.

"This layoff is a consequence of the strike at Michigan Assembly Plant's final assembly and paint departments, because the components built by these 600 employees use materials that must be e-coated for protection," the company said in a statement Friday. "E-coating is completed in the paint department, which is on strike."

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she is hoping for a quick resolution, and that it is too soon to gauge the impact of the strike.

"It's premature to be making forecasts about what it means for the economy. It would depend on how long the strike lasts and who would be affected by it," she said on CNBC.

Experts say the strike could drive up new and used car prices and cause a loss of $5.6 billion in wages and automaker earnings.

In a sign of the potential economic and political of a long strike, President Joe Biden is sending two top administration officials to Detroit this week to meet with both sides. Biden has sided with the UAW in brief public comments, saying that the automakers have not fairly shared their record profits with workers.

An administration official said Monday that acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior aide Gene Sperling will not serve as mediators - they won't be at the bargaining table - but are going to Detroit "to help support the negotiations in any way the parties feel is constructive." The official was not authorized to discuss private discussions and spoke anonymously.

UAW President Shawn Fain on Sunday shot down an offer by Stellantis - which owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM, along with major foreign brands including Citroen, Peugeot and Maserati - to hike its worker' wages by 21% over four years.

Ford and GM have also each offered a roughly 20% pay bump. The union is asking for a 36% hike over a four-year contract.

The union also wants the Big Three automakers to eliminate their two-tier wage model, which results in many workers earning less than the average wage of $32 an hour; offer defined benefit pensions to all employees; limit the the use of temporary workers; offer a four-day workweek ; and provide more job protections, including the right to strike over plant closings.

"Our demands are just," Fain said on "Face the Nation." "We're asking for our fair share in this economy and the fruits of our labor."

Rather than launching an all-out strike of its 146,000 members, the union opted to target three factories a plan that could make the union's $825 million strike fund last longer. Workers walked out of a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford plant near Detroit, and a Stellantis factory in Toledo, Ohio, that produces Jeeps.

A key feature of the UAW strategy is the threat of escalating the strike if the union is unhappy with the pace of bargaining. On Friday, Fain said more factories could be targeted: "It could be in a day, it could be in a week."

Strategically, targeting three factories "certainly created more uncertainty," Harry Katz, the Jack Sheinkman Professor of Collective Bargaining at Cornell University, told CBS News, adding that Fain is signaling that "he's a tough, militant guy that's not going to agree to concessions."

The UAW "will get a strong agreement - it's a question of how and when they reach a compromise," Katz predicted.

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 5:55 PM /

themes:  Detroit  Joe Biden  Cadillac  Ohio  Michigan  Missouri  Kansas

UAW Chief Demands "Fair Share" as Auto Industry Strike Persists

The auto workers' strike against Detroit's Big Three automakers has entered its fourth day, and there are no signs of an immediate resolution. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has threatened to escalate the labor action if "serious progress" towards an agreement is not made by Friday at noon, according to UAW President Shawn Fain in a video statement on Monday. Fain emphasized that autoworkers have waited long enough for fair treatment and are not willing to wait or "mess around" any longer.

 ..... Louis. ..... Ford also took action in response to the strike by temporarily laying off 600 non-striking workers at its assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan. ..... 

The strike's potential impact on the economy and political landscape has prompted Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to express hope for a quick resolution. Yellen stated that it is too early to assess the strike's effects and that it largely depends on the duration and the parties affected. ..... Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior aide Gene Sperling will not be mediators at the bargaining table but aim to support the negotiations in any constructive way possible. Biden has publicly expressed support for the UAW, stating that the automakers have not fairly shared their record profits with workers.

The UAW has rejected an offer by Stellantis to increase worker wages by 21% over four years. Both Ford and GM have also offered a roughly 20% pay raise, but the union is demanding a 36% hike over a four-year contract. ..... 

Instead of launching an all-out strike, the UAW has strategically targeted three factories to maximize the longevity of its $825 million strike fund. ..... The union's strategy includes the threat of escalating the strike if the pace of bargaining does not meet their expectations. Fain stated that more factories could be targeted in the near future, creating uncertainty and signaling the union's determination to secure a strong agreement.

Harry Katz, the Jack Sheinkman Professor of Collective Bargaining at Cornell University, predicts that the UAW will ultimately reach a compromise and secure a strong agreement. The question remains regarding the specifics of the compromise and the timeline for achieving it.

UAW threatens to expand strike to more auto plants by end of week

 ..... But In a video statement late Monday, UAW President Shawn Fain said more factories could be targeted if "serious progress" toward an agreement isn't reached by Friday at noon.

"Autoworkers have waited long enough to make things right at the Big Three. We're not waiting around, and we're not messing around," he said.


UAW's Shawn Fain says he's fighting against "poverty wages" and "greedy CEOs." Here's what to know.

With the United Auto Workers' strike against the big three automakers, union leader Shawn Fain told CBS News' Face the Nation that he's fighting against "poverty wages" and "greedy CEOs." His fiery rhetoric and creative approach to the strike is underscoring his difference with prior union management, according to experts.

Fain was relatively unknown outside the union until September 14, when Detroit's Big Three automakers failed to reach a new labor agreement before their contract with UAW members expired. Since the strike began, Fain has become the public face of the union's fight to extract higher wages and benefits from the automakers.

He's also earning comparisons to Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont, with comments such as Fain's remark to Face the Nation on Sunday that "the billionaire class keeps taking more and more and the working class keeps getting left behind."

"He's creative, I will give him that," Harry Katz, the Jack Sheinkman Professor of Collective Bargaining at Cornell University, told CBS MoneyWatch. "He seems to want to prove over and over to the members that he's different."

Fain was elected as president of the UAW just six months ago in a tight runoff race that tipped in his favor by only a few hundred votes. In the lead-up to the election, Fain stressed that he wanted to run the union differently, criticizing prior management for being "way too close" to automakers and failing to fight for their workers.

"To me, we're at a crossroads," Fain told Bloomberg Law in 2022 as he was running for election to be UAW president. "We have to get leaders in there who are going to take action and be proactive and not wait for things to happen then react to it."

Here's what to know about Fain.

When did Shawn Fain join the UAW?

Fain, 54, started with the UAW in 1994, when he worked as an electrician for Chrysler at its Kokomo Casting Plant in Kokomo, Indiana, his hometown.

The union was familiar to Fain as he comes from a family of UAW members, with his grandfather starting at Chrysler in 1937, the year that workers at that automaker joined the union. Two of his grandparents were UAW GM retirees, and Fain carries one of his grandfather's pay stubs in his wallet to remind him of his family's beginnings.

His role in the union included serving his local at "every level," according to the UAW. That included being elected five terms as a skilled trades committeeman and the plant shop chairman for Local 1166.

Shop chair is "among the most demanding jobs in the union in that you're dealing with grievances and issues on the shop floor all the time," University of California, Berkeley professor Harley Shaiken told NPR.

In 2009, he became a UAW negotiator, and then in 2012 became an international representative.

What is Fain known for?

In prior years, Fain was outspoken about some labor agreements, telling Bloomberg News that he was against ratifying a two-tier initiative in 2007 that meant new hires would be paid at a lower rate and be excluded from some traditional benefits such as a pension plan.

"I faced a lot of blowback back then," he noted.

But it was an embezzlement scandal at the UAW that opened the door to new voices like Fain in the union's top leadership. That case involved more than a dozen UAW officials who were accused of siphoning money for their own uses, ranging from gambling to buying cocaine.

What was Fain doing during the UAW scandal?

During the embezzlement scandal, Fain was working as an international representative at the Stellantis training center, overseeing the skills training programs. Stellantis, which was formed in 2021 in a merger between Fiat Chrysler and European automaker Groupe PSA, owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM, along with major foreign brands including Citroen, Peugeot and Maserati.

"I always felt like leadership was way too close to the company, but really the only people who could know what was really happening were the people who had to sign off on expenditures. I wasn't in that type of role then," he told Bloomberg News. "I've been working with the federal government, with teams of attorneys - everything - trying to clean up and reorganize."

How much does an average UAW autoworker make-and how much do Big Three CEOs get paid?
These are the vehicles most impacted by the UAW strike
What is Shawn Fain's salary?

The most recent data available on Fain's salary with the UAW is from 2022, prior to his election as president, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Last year, Fain earned $160,130 as an administrative assistant for the union, a union filing shows.

Prior UAW president Raymond Curry earned $267,126 that year.

What does the UAW want from the automakers?

Fain told CBS News' Face the Nation on Sunday that the union's demands "are just. ..... 

The strike involves three factories: a GM assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan; and a Stellantis assembly complex in Toledo, Ohio. The plants build some of the automakers' most popular vehicles, including the Jeep Wrangler and the Ford Bronco.

The UAW's goal is to pressure automakers to provide a 36% pay increase across a four-year contract; pension benefits for all employees; limited use of temporary workers; more paid time off, including a four-day workweek ; and more job protections, including the right to strike over plant closings.

Is Fain's strategy working?

His strategy of targeting three factories in the UAW's initial move "certainly created more uncertainty," said Cornell's Katz. Fain likely wants to prove "he's a tough militant guy that's not going to agree to concessions."

But it's likely that the labor dispute will be settled due to economic circumstances, rather than due to the influence of individual labor leaders, he added. The fact is, Katz added, that the autoworkers are bargaining from a position of strength, and as thus are likely to earn many - but not all - of their demands.

shawFor instance, because the labor market is tight, autoworkers' spouses or partners are likely working, giving the employees more bargaining power and economic flexibility to handle a strike, he added.


Katz's prediction: the UAW will win a 3% annual raise in base pay over a multi-year contract, as well as a reinstatement of the cost-of-living adjustment and a lump-sum payment to make up for the hit from inflation during the pandemic. Some temporary workers will be converted into permanent employees, and the wages of the bottom-tier workers will be brought up closer to the top tier. But, he added, it's unlikely they UAW get the return of a traditional pension.

"I would reject [the automakers'] offers just as he is rejecting them," Katz added. "More power to him. When company profits and sales are strong, there's a low employment rate and a strong economy, unions do rather well."

UAW strike against automakers enters third day with no resolution in sight

The United Auto Workers strike against the Detroit Three automakers entered its third day on Sunday with no immediate resolution on the horizon.

Union negotiators and representatives of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis were set to resume talks starting Sunday, following the start of the most ambitious U.S. industrial labor action in decades. This is the first time the UAW has gone on strike against all three automakers simultaneously.

The coordinated strike comes at a time when Americans' approval of labor unions is at its highest point in decades even as membership in unions remains largely unchanged.

UAW President Shawn Fain told MSNBC on Sunday that progress in the talks has been slow. The UAW resumed talks with GM on Sunday, and will do so with Stellantis and Ford on Monday.

"I don't really want to say we're closer," he said. "It's a shame that the companies didn't take our advice and get down to business from the beginning of bargaining back in mid-July."

Asked in a subsequent appearance on CBS Face the Nation whether workers would walk out at more plants this week, Fain said the union was "prepared to do whatever we have to do."

About 12,700 UAW workers remain on strike as part of a coordinated labor action targeting three U.S. assembly plants - one at each of the Detroit Three automakers after the prior four-year labor agreements expired at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Negotiators for the UAW and Ford had "reasonably productive discussions" toward a new contract on Saturday, the union said, while Chrysler-parent Stellantis said it hiked its offer, proposing raises of 20% over a four-and-a-half-year contract term, including an immediate 10% hike. That matched proposals from GM and Ford.

The proposals are about half the 40% wage hike the UAW is demanding through 2027, including an immediate 20% boost.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who has signaled support for the union's efforts, has had acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and advisor Gene Sperling speaking to the UAW and the automakers during the talks.

An administration official said on Sunday that Biden believes new agreements with the automakers should ensure that auto jobs going forward are good middle class jobs.

Mark Stewart, the North American chief operating officer for Stellantis, told reporters Saturday the UAW rejected a proposal to resume operations at an assembly plant in Belvidere, Illinois, noting its offer had been contingent on reaching agreement before the contract expiration.

In late February, Stellantis indefinitely idled operations at the Belvidere plant, citing rising costs of electric vehicle production.

The UAW criticized the company position on the Illinois plant saying now "they are now taking it back. That's how they see these workers. A bargaining chip."

Stellantis said late Saturday it is willing to negotiate about the plant's future. "The truth is UAW leadership ignored Belvidere in favor of a strike," the company said.

The strikes have halted production at three plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, along with other popular models. GM has been struggling to launch its new EVs and a prolonged UAW strike could hurt those efforts even if it has a chance of helping in the short term, analysts said.

Evercore ISI analyst Chris McNally said in a Sunday research note he expects plants that build more profitable pickup trucks like Ford's F-150, GM's Chevrolet Silverado and Stellantis' Ram to be the next strike targets if the walkout continues.

On Friday, Ford said it was indefinitely laying off 600 workers at a Michigan plant because of the impact of the strike at the facility, which makes the Bronco, and GM told some 2,000 workers at a Kansas car plant that their factory likely would be shut down Monday or Tuesday due to a lack of parts stemming from the strike at a GM Missouri plant.

Besides higher wages, the UAW is demanding shorter work weeks, restoration of defined benefit pensions and stronger job security as automakers make the EV shift.

Why is the UAW on strike? These are their contract demands as they negotiate with the Big Three

As the United Auto Workers enters day four of its strike against Detroit's Big Three, the stakes are getting higher for automakers Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. UAW President Shawn Fain has threatened to target more factories for work stoppages if "serious progress" toward an agreement isn't reached by Friday at noon.

What do striking autoworkers want? Here is a list of contract demands the union is making at the negotiating table.

Pay increases and cost of living adjustments

The UAW is asking automakers for a 36% pay increase across a four-year contract. For now, however, the sides remain far apart on a wage hike.

Stellantis - which owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, along with major foreign brands including Citroen, Peugeot and Maserati) - on Saturday offered a 21% wage increase over four years, with an immediate 10% bump when a new contract is signed. The union summarily rejected the offer.

"It's definitely a no-go," Fain told CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday of Stellantis' proposal. "We've made that very clear to the companies."

The UAW also wants the Big Three to reinstate annual cost of living adjustments, arguing that inflation is eating away worker paychecks. For decades, the Detroit automakers offered a COLA, but stopped after GM and Chryslers went bankrupt following the 2008 financial crisis.

Adjusting for inflation, autoworkers have seen their average wages fall 19.3% since 2008, according to Adam Hersh, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. That's because autoworker "concessions made following the 2008 auto industry crisis were never reinstated," Hersh said in a recent blog post, "including a suspension of cost-of-living adjustments."

UAW's Shawn Fain says he's fighting against "poverty wages" and "greedy CEOs. ..... 
End of wage tiers

The UAW wants the Big Three to scrap its two-tiered wage structure. Under that system, top-tier workers - meaning anyone who joined the company in 2007 or earlier - earn an average of roughly $33 an hour. But those hired after 2007 are classified as lower tier and earn far less - up to about $17 an hour.

Lower-tier employees also aren't eligible for defined benefit pensions, and their health benefits are less generous. The UAW says that paying employees half as much for doing the same work amounts is unfair.

Defined benefit pension plans for all

Currently, UAW workers who were hired after 2007 don't receive defined benefit pensions. For years, the union gave up general pay raises and lost cost-of-living wage increases to help the companies control costs.

"The majority of our members do not get a pension nowadays. It's crazy," Fain complained while speaking to Ford workers last month at a plant in Louisville, Kentucky.

Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Buffalo, believes the union will ultimately lose its battle for the return of pensions.

"I think the chances of them winning even most of what they're looking for is between slim and none," said Wheaton. For example, he said, "I wouldn't hold my breath for [the return of pension plans]. Almost no one in any industry is adding those today."

"But you never ask for the minimum, you ask for more than what you want to reach a deal," he said.

Four-day workweek and more time off

Along with substantial pay raises, more paid time off and pension benefits, one of the changes UAW leaders have been bargaining for is a four-day workweek, working 32 hours for 40 hours of pay, and more time off "to spend with family," according to the UAW site.

"Our members are working 60, 70, even 80 hours a week just to make ends meet. That's not living. It's barely surviving and it needs to stop," Fain said last month on Facebook Live, explaining the demands of the union.

Advocating for shorter workweeks is not a new concept for auto workers. Congress amended federal labor laws in 1940, limiting the workweek to 40 hours, but nearly 15 years earlier, Ford Motors became one of the first companies to implement a 40-hour week.

Right to strike, family protection

The union is also asking for the right to strike over plant closings.

"The Big Three have closed 65 plants over the last 20 years," according to the UAW's website. "That's devastated our hometowns. We must have the right to defend our communities."

With that in mind, the union also wants to implement a "working family protection program" that pays UAW to do community service work if the companies shut down a facility.

Perhaps most important to the union is that it be allowed to represent workers at 10 electric vehicle battery factories, most of which are being built by joint ventures between automakers and South Korean battery makers. The union wants those plants to receive top UAW wages. In part that's because workers who now make components for internal combustion engines will need a place to work as the industry transitions to EVs.

Retiree health care

In addition to a return of traditional pension payment plans and significantly higher pay for retired workers, the union is seeking health care for all retired UAW members. Workers hired before 2007 still have those benefits. But those hired since - a majority of hourly workers - do not.

The UAW gave up the pension plans and retiree health care for new hires and COLA for all members when GM and Chrysler were hurtling toward bankruptcy in 2009. But it will be difficult for the union to convince management to reinstate those benefits, said Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Group, a Michigan research firm.

Limited use of temporary workers

The union is also demanding that the automakers limit their use temporary workers, who under the tiered-wage system receive the least pay and no benefits.

"We are going to end the abuse of temps. Our fight at the Big Three is a fight for every worker," the UAW states on its website.

Audacious demands

Fain himself has acknowledged that the union's demands are "audacious." But he contends that the automakers can afford to raise workers' pay significantly.

Over the past decade, the Detroit Three have emerged as robust profit-makers. They've collectively posted net income of $164 billion, $20 billion of it this year. The CEOs of all three major automakers earn multiple millions in annual compensation.

"Companies have made some significant offers, but I believe it should go further - to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts," President Biden said Friday as he addressed the decision by UAW's decision to strike,

Car prices could surge 10% or more as UAW strike enters second week

Car prices could surge 10% and more as the United Auto Workers threatens additional walkouts, according to experts - even as the bitter standoff threatens GM and Ford with punishing losses as high as $125 million a week.

Rob Handfield, a business professor at North Carolina State University, told CBS that he predicts a month-long strike could lead to a roughly 10% increase in vehicle prices with hikes depending on the make and model.

"If it goes for two months, we probably won't see any cars on lots, which means dealers will raise prices on the inventory they have," Handfield told the outlet.

Tom Maoli, a Ford dealership owner in New Jersey, told CBS News that he expects to raise his prices by 20% once the strike continues for two weeks.

"Inventories on lots of dealerships will start drying up as they get sold and there won't be enough cars to go around," Maoli said, noting that car parts will actually be the "biggest issue."

"That means tires, brakes, anything you need to change and keep your car running," he told CBS.


Collectively, GM, Ford and Stellantis "produce almost half of domestically assembled cars," according to Goldman Sachs - 14,000 of which are produced weekly at the targeted plants.

The investment bank predicted in a note shared with The Post that "auto production would likely fall sharply - we assume to roughly zero - at any company impacted by a strike."

A halt in operations at this scale would also affect quarterly annualized growth by as much 0.1% each week the strike lasts, according to Goldman.

At GM and Ford, that percentage equates to a $100 million to $125 million weekly loss in revenue for each company.

GM's Fairfax, Kan., plant could also be forced to idle "as soon as next week," Goldman said, as the production site sources some materials from the automaker's Wentzville plant.

The bank's calculations are based on weekly revenue estimates at the GM and Ford plants affected by the ongoing strike, as well as the car models produced at each site.

GM's Wentzville, Mo., plant makes the GMC Canyon and Colorado, while Ford's Wayne, Mich., production site pumps out its Bronco and Ranger models.

Though unionized Stellantis workers are also on the picket lines, the Jeep-maker was not included in the forecast.

A GM spokesperson told The Post that the company will address the strike's impacts during its next earnings call, on Oct. 24.

"Suffice to say, strikes hurt everyone and not just the company," the GM spokesperson said.

A representative for Ford also declined to speculate on the impact of the strike, adding that the company "continues to negotiate with the UAW, and our focus is on reaching a deal that rewards our employees, allows for the continuation of Ford's unique position as the most American automaker and enables Ford to invest and grow. We're working for a win-win."

Representatives at Stellantis did not immediately respond to The Post's request for comment.

As of Tuesday, about 13,000 UAW union members are still picketing, fighting for new contracts that offer a 40% pay raise, a 32-hour work week and benefits for office workers - which President Joe Biden has endorsed.

"Over the last two - past decade, auto companies have seen record profits, including the last few years, because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifices of the UAW workers," the 80-year-old President said at the White House Friday, hours after the strike began.

"Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers."

Biden did not specifically recommend terms for a deal, but said Ford, General Motors and Stellantis "should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts."

UAW president Shawn Fain did just that, pressuring the Big Three Detroit automakers to write up new contracts that take the union's demands into account as early as noon on Friday, he said in a YouTube video posted late Monday.

In the clip, Fain urged GM, Ford and Stellantis to add job protections to its worker contracts as the industry moves towards a fully-electric future.

Fain did not say which other plants would be targeted if the already-historic strike widened, which is the first time the 88-year-old union staged simultaneous walkouts at all three Big Three automakers.

The UAW represents 150,000 workers across the Big Three - only about 13,000 of which are currently striking.

Daniel Ives, a senior analyst for Wedbush, said a prolonged strike will hamper Detroit's uphill effort to top Musk's Tesla in the ultra-competitive electric vehicle market.

"This is a potential nightmare situation for GM and Ford as both 313 stalwarts are in the early stages of a massive EV transformation path for the next decade that will define future success," Ives said, referencing Detroit's 313 area code.

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