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Are UAW demands out of touch or in line with other union asks?

UAW strike against major automakers looking more likely
Posted at 5:48 PM, Sep 15, 2023

CLEVELAND — President Joe Biden Friday weighed in from the White House on the United Auto Workers Union's targeted strike of GM, Ford and Stellantis plants in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri. Biden urged both sides to continue negotiations but also suggested that he believes automakers have more to give.

"Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW," Biden said.

Before the UAW walked off the job at those three plants, there was a late offer from GM, matching many of the items in Ford's latest offer, including a 20% wage increase with 10% of that in the first year and other benefits including increased time off and an increase in retiree health care plans. An offer GM CEO Mary Barra said Friday should have been enough to avoid a strike.

"I'm extremely disappointed and frustrated that we're on strike because when you talk about the offer that you just reviewed," Barra said.

The 20% wage hike is roughly half of what the union is asking for, though. Ford CEO Jim Farley called it the company's strongest offer in 80 years.

"We are offering an incredible, unprecedented increase. All they want is for everyone to make $300,000," Farley said.

Not quite, argues the union. They want a wage that keeps up with inflation and allows newer employees, especially, to one day afford one of the new cars they are building.

"They deserve a middle-class standard of living where they can buy a vehicle, they can buy a home workers in the tier system now cannot do that," said former UAW President Bob King.

Former Chrysler and Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli sees it from both sides. He calls some of the union demands, like restored pensions, as overreaching. Still, he sees the UAW as being in the driver's seat.

"I mean, they look over the fence, and they see UPS, 40%, the average full-time driver's making $174,000. You look at American Airlines, you look at the dockworkers on the West Coast. UAW's just saying, 'hey, it's my turn,'" Nardelli said.

Case Western's Jonathan Ernest from the Weatherhead School of Management agrees.

"I think that given the success that some unionized workers have had in other industries, I think that's giving some of the confidence to the United Autoworkers to make similar sorts of requests," Ernest said.

The still relatively tight labor market also worked in the union's favor, unlike in 2008 and 2009 when the unions made those concessions to save not only their jobs but GM and Chrysler especially.

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