The Next Labor Headache
Author: Greg Valliere
August 4, 2023
THE UNION IS EYEING A POSSIBLE STRIKE against GM, Ford or Chrysler parent Stellantis. The focus is on wage hikes that would compensate for inflation — the union wants the 40% hike to be broken up into a 20% increase upon the contract’s ratification, and four additional 5% wage increases each of the next four years. That would be one of the largest wage increases in U.S. labor history.
UAW PRESIDENT SHAWN FAIN said this week that the union also wants the right to strike over plant closures, the re-establishment of some retiree benefits and a defined pension plan for all workers.
FAIN CITED THE AUTO MAKERS’ profitability, and targeted GM CEO Mary Barra specifically. Last year she received nearly $29 million in total compensation, including benefits. That’s up roughly 34% from what she received in 2019, though her base salary remains the same at $2.1 million.
UAW’S TOP WAGE is about $32 per hour after two 3% wage increases since 2019. The union’s proposal would bring its top wage to $47.14, nearing the $49 per hour average top rate recently achieved in a tentative agreement between the Teamsters and UPS. (Voting by UPS workers on that deal began yesterday and will continue until Aug. 23. Ratification is likely.)
A WILD CARD will be the unions’ willingness to cooperate on manufacturing of electric vehicles, which labor leaders fear will cost jobs. This could become a sticking point between the tough-talking Fain and the auto companies.
LIKE TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT Sean O’Brien, Fain will settle for the right price; the risk to the economy is that very generous deals in this and other pacts will maintain “sticky inflation” on the wage front.
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