UAW President Shawn Fein said during a union virtual town hall that the upcoming labor contract talks with the Big Three U.S. automakers will be the fight of a generation and there will be no concessions. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
June 1 (UPI) -- As the United Auto Workers go into bargaining with the three major U.S. automakers, the union said any new contract must address the twin-tier wage system, cost-of-living and job security.
The UAW said it will be in "the fight of a generation" and there will be no concessions as labor contract negotiations between the union and Ford, GM, and Stellantis NV are set to start soon. The current contracts expire Sept. 14.
"We must fight twin-tiers, we must fight to reinstate cost of living. We must fight for stronger job protections and we will not accept any concessions," UAW President Shawn Fein said during a union town hall livestream. "These companies have been extraordinarily profitable and our members have created incredible value for these companies during some really hard and dangerous years. They can afford our demands and we expect 'em to pony up."
Fein said the "Big Three" U.S. automakers -- General Motors, Stellantis and Ford -- made "just under a quarter of a trillion dollars in profits in North America between 2013 and 2022."
UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock said the union has a $825 million strike fund and has increased strike pay to $500 per week. She said the union will go the distance to "win what we deserve."
Mock said a strike by UAW workers at General Motors in 2019, led the company's North American revenue to drop $10.7 billion and its profits fell by $3.4 billion.
The UAW was the first labor union to win annual cost-of-living adjustments in the 1940s. They expanded it for all its members to keep up with inflation back in the 1970s. During the virtual town hall, UAW leaders said inflation is "hammering" their members today.
According to the UAW, if top-tier UAW wages had kept pace with inflation, workers today would be earning $3.71 more per hour -- more than $7,700 more annually.
The UAW agreed to a concession on cost-of-living adjustments during the Great Recession of 2008-09 when auto companies came close to full bankruptcy.
A two-tier wage system was also conceded for new hires. It takes them 8 years to go from the lower starting wage to the top UAW contract wage in the auto plants. Lower-tier workers also don't qualify for full healthcare and pension benefits.
Another issue at the auto industry bargaining tables this year will be the EV transition.
UAW Vice-President Mike Booth said the federal government is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the EV transition, incentivizing the construction of battery plants across the country.
"To be clear, I and the UAW support this transition. But it must be a just transition," Booth said during the union virtual town hall. "That means workers aren't left behind. The transition must do right by our members, our families and communities."
Fein said the twin-tier wage system has to go.
"The tiers issue is to end the 8-year progression from start pay to top pay - ending the second-class status of workers who are being denied healthcare and pensions and fight the practice of using lower-paid temporary workers for years," Fein said.