The United Auto Workers (UAW) union is facing a deadlock in its negotiations with the Detroit Big Three automakers, as the current contracts are set to expire on Sept. 14. UAW president Shawn Fain announced on Thursday night that the union has filed unfair labor practice charges against General Motors and Stellantis for refusing to bargain in good faith. He also dismissed Ford’s counter-proposal as insulting and inadequate.
UAW demands higher wages and job security
The UAW has presented its demands to the Big Three four weeks ago, seeking a 46% wage increase, a return of cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), an end to the two-tier wage system, and more job security guarantees. The union also wants the automakers to invest more in electric vehicle production and training in the U.S., and to stop outsourcing work to Mexico and other countries.
Fain said that the union’s demands are justified by the record profits that the Big Three have made in recent years, especially during the pandemic. He said that the workers deserve a fair share of the wealth that they have created for the companies and their shareholders.
“We will not accept anything less than consistent living wages that will grow with the economy,” Fain said.
Ford’s counter-proposal rejected by UAW
Fain said that he met with Ford’s leaders on Tuesday and received their counter-proposal, which he promptly threw into a trash can. He said that Ford offered a 9% general wage increase over the life of the contract, and a one-time lump sum bonus instead of COLA. He also said that Ford rejected all of the UAW’s job security proposals and refused to end the two-tier wage system.
“Ford’s proposal not only fails to meet our needs, it insults our very worth,” Fain said.
Ford CEO Jim Farley issued a statement in response, defending the company’s offer as generous and reasonable. He said that Ford has employed the most UAW workers and invested the most in the U.S. among the Big Three. He also said that Ford has exceeded its commitments to add jobs and invest during the last three contracts.
“Our proposal reflects our respect for our UAW team members and our commitment to their future,” Farley said.
GM and Stellantis accused of unfair labor practices
Fain said that GM and Stellantis have not even responded to the union’s demands, despite repeated requests. He said that the companies have shown no interest in bargaining and have ignored the union’s concerns. He said that this amounts to an illegal refusal to bargain in good faith, which is why the union has filed unfair labor practice charges against them with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
“The Big Three are either not listening or not taking us serious,” Fain said.
GM and Stellantis expressed surprise and disappointment at the union’s charges, saying that they have been bargaining in good faith and are committed to reaching a fair agreement. They also said that they are focused on continuing the negotiations and will not be distracted by Fain’s tactics.
“We are surprised by and strongly refute the NLRB charge filed by the International UAW,” Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing, said in a statement.
“Stellantis is shocked by Mr. Fain’s claims that we have not bargained in good faith … This is a claim with no basis in fact,” Jodi Tinson, Stellantis’ spokesperson, said in a statement.
UAW prepares for possible strike
Fain said that he views Sept. 14 as a hard deadline, not as a reference point, and that he will not seek an extension. He said that if no agreement is reached by then, he will call for a strike authorization vote among the members. He said that the union’s goal is not to strike, but to secure a fair contract. However, he said that the union is prepared to fight if necessary.
“If we want higher wages, better benefits, and a better future for ourselves and our families, then we are going to have to fight like hell to win,” Fain said.
Last week, the UAW announced that 97% of its auto workers voted in favor of strike authorization, making a strike possible this fall, though not necessarily imminent. A strike would affect more than 150,000 workers at more than 50 plants and facilities across the U.S.