Negotiations Continue as Auto Workers Enters First Week of Strike
The United Auto Workers union (UAW) represents roughly 400,000 workers across different sectors. 146,000 of those union members work at one of the “Big Three” automaker plants; Ford, GM, and Stellantis.
The vote to strike was reached in August after the UAW and the Big Three failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement by the September 14th deadline. For the past week, auto workers have gone on strike, demanding better wages, benefits, and working conditions. As the strike continues, everyday consumers and small business owners have begun feeling the impact.
Strike Hits Three States, Impact Felt Nationwide
The UAW is using an intentional “stand-up” strike method, which pulls workers from specific auto plants, to keep from crippling the operations of the plants as a whole. This method allows for the biggest impact while minimizing UAW costs. It’s also a method that is getting the attention of not only the automakers but the nation as a whole. Currently, strikes are happening at a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, a GM factory in Wentzville, Missouri, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio.
Despite this intentional striking method, the ripple effect can be felt nationwide. Players in the supply chain, including parts makers and suppliers, have been left with declining business. Car dealerships have experienced a halt in new vehicle deliveries after the strike went into effect. Even local shops and restaurants are feeling the burn of not having the business of auto workers who are currently on strike.
Strikers Demand Higher Pay, Better Benefits
Workers in the auto industry are the latest players in the economy to demand better wages and benefits. Their strike comes after the recent writers and actors strike currently taking place. With the leadership of the UAW, auto workers have made it their mission to reap some of the benefits the Big Three have made pre and post-pandemic.
Among the UAW’s demands are a 36% raise increase (this is down from the original 46%), a 32-hour work week, retirement healthcare, the reinstatement of traditional pensions that were lost during the Great Recession, and job security guarantees. The UAW is also seeking protections for new hires who, under the current two-tiered pay system, are paid much less than tenured workers.
What Does This Strike Mean for Consumers?
Demand for new vehicles has been at an all-time high, especially with federal credits available for hybrid and electric vehicle purchases. Despite a coordinated striking method that keeps plants in limited operation, consumers will begin feeling the impact soon. If an agreement is not reached in the coming days, drivers will start seeing higher sticker prices on new vehicles at their local car dealerships, fewer vehicles on the lot, and a declining supply of parts and accessories.
Negotiations at a Standstill
After nearly a week of negotiations, the automakers have agreed to some of the demands, including a 20% wage increase from Ford and GM and a 17.5% wage increase from Stellantis. The UAW has declined these offers. If an agreement at UAW’s current asking is reached, it will be the largest rate increase in recent history. Currently, the UAW’s top wage is $32.32 per hour after two 3% wage increases starting in 2019. The UAW’s demands would bring that wage up to $47.14.
During a Facebook livestream, UAW President Shawn Fain defended workers by explaining, “Big Three CEOs saw their pay spike 40% on average over the last four years. We know our members are worth the same and more.”
Fain points to the staggering profits of the three companies by highlighting GM CEO Mary Barry’s 2020 compensation package, which totaled nearly $29 million. Her earnings jumped 34% from 2019, while her base salary remained the same at $2.1 million.
As car dealerships consistently hit record sales over the past couple of years, auto workers are demanding that they share in the profits they helped to create.
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