An Auto Strike Looms; Plus — Who Will Replace Mitch McConnell?
Author: Greg Valliere
September 6, 2023
FIERY UAW PRESIDENT SHAWN FAIN fanned the flames late last week, when he filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the companies of refusing to bargain in good faith — even though Fain is seeking a ridiculously generous pact — with a 40% wage gain and more benefits — which could jeopardize the industry’s competitiveness.
OFFICIALS AT THE BIG THREE angrily denied Fain’s charges; a GM official said the UAW has made nearly 1,000 demands in the talks. Ford seems to be the most conciliatory firm; its proposal includes a lump-sum payment equaling 6 percent of worker wages, and a significant hike in wages for temporary workers.
THE UNION TRADITIONALLY TARGETS ONE FIRM for a strike, and industry observers think Stellantis may be picked, in part because the firm has closed a plant in Belvedere, Ill. that the union wants reopened.
MANY OF THE ISSUES that will occupy the negotiators in the next week are crucial for Joe Biden, who boasts that he’s the most pro-union president in history. He has prodded both sides, but some issues — such as the production of EVs — seem to defy any easy solution. The White House wants to produce more electric vehicles, which is not popular in Michigan, which will be a key state in the 2024 election.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s difficult to imagine the militant Fain accepting a deal at this stage; a strike of at least a few days appears likely. One thing is sure — whenever there’s a deal, it will be viewed as very generous, continuing this summer’s pattern of “sticky” wage hikes that will prevent the Federal Reserve from cutting interest rates any time soon.
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YESTERDAY’S REPORT FROM DOCTORS did not end speculation on Capitol Hill that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, could once again “freeze up,” not the image that Republicans want. They returned from a long break yesterday, discouraged that their constituents think McConnell, 81, is too old and frail for the job.
SO, INEVITABILITY, THE FOCUS IS SHIFTING to who might replace McConnell as Minority Leader, either this fall or in early 2024. He got a bill passed in Kentucky that requires the governor, a Democrat, to pick a replacement who’s from the same party as the departing Senator, so McConnell could leave without changing the Democrats’ shaky 51-49 majority, which includes three independents who caucus with Democrats.
THE SENATE REPUBLICANS ARE AN INTRIGUING LOT: At least half of them are anti-Trump (some privately), and McConnell has provided votes for President Biden on key issues. The Senate is far more moderate than the House.
TO THE CHAGRIN OF SENATE RIGHT-WINGERS, McConnell’s successor is likely to be a pragmatic conservative. The leading candidate is South Dakota Sen. John Thune, 62, who has been openly critical of Trump, who has fired off scathing emails condemning Thune as “Mitch’s boy.”
NEXT IN LINE is John Cornyn, 71, the respected Texas deal-maker, who has declared that he wants someone other than Trump as the party’s nominee. The only other serious candidate is John Barrasso, 71, of Wyoming, the most conservative of the three (although he has not endorsed a presidential candidate).
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: With relatively moderate Republicans in charge of the Senate, the impact of radical House members would stay minimal — no Biden impeachment, continued arms shipments to Ukraine, and a deal on the Trump tax cuts, which expire in two years. The market can live with John Thune, just as it has easily lived with Mitch McConnell.
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