Four working days a week, up 46%: UAW makes ‘bold’ demands ahead of potential strike against Big Three automakers
A four-day workweek with full-time pay, a 46% wage increase and a share of the company’s profits are among the demands of the union representing some 150,000 workers at the US’s Big Three automakers – General Motors, Ford and Stelantis.
The United Auto Workers, or UAW, has vowed to strike on September 14 if the union and automakers fail to reach an agreement by then.
Even UAW President Sean Fine last month called the workers’ set of demands “bold.” He has defended the ambitious agenda in a series of public statements, citing the billions in profits enjoyed by the Big Three.
Meanwhile, automakers have largely rejected these demands. Ford only submitted a contract proposal, offering a wage increase of 9% over the term of the contract, plus a one-time payout, bringing the total increase to 15%.
“Overall, this offer is much better than what we estimate workers earn at Tesla and foreign automakers operating in the United States,” Jim Farley, Ford’s president and CEO, said in a statement Thursday.
Ford and General Motors declined to respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
In a statement, Stellantis told ABC News that discussions with the union’s negotiating team “remain constructive and collaborative with a focus on reaching a new agreement that balances the concerns of our 43,000 employees with our vision for the future — a vision that makes things better.” business to meet the challenges of the American market and secure the future for all of our employees, their families, and our company.”
Meanwhile, Ford said it looks forward to working with the UAW on creative solutions during this time when our dramatically changing industry needs a skilled and competitive workforce more than ever.
In a statement Thursday, Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing, said: “The pace of negotiations depends on how quickly the parties can resolve the nearly 1,000 UAW applications, including more than 90 that were filed this week. Our goal remains the same.” — to reach an agreement without interruption that rewards our team members and protects the future of the entire GM team.”
With a potential strike looming, here are some of the UAW’s key demands and what you should know about them:
46% increase in wages
The UAW has called for a pay increase of 46% over the term of the four-year contract, and an increase in the top hourly wage to about $47 an hour.
Providing context for the extent of the wage increase, Fine points to recent increases in compensation for CEOs at the Big Three, as well as high inflation that has reduced workers’ purchasing power.
“We went to Ford and proposed a double-digit pay raise, just like the Big Three CEOs have had over the past four years,” Fine said in a Facebook Live on Thursday. “Because we know our members deserve the same value and more.”
“We also have a lot to compensate for. In inflation-adjusted dollars, our starting wage today is $10 less an hour than it was in 2007,” Fine added.
In response, Ford said full-time employees would be well compensated under its offer of a 9% wage increase over the term of the contract, plus a one-time payout bringing the total increase to 15%.
“Permanent, full-time Ford employees at the highest average wage rate can earn $98,000 — in wages, cost-of-living adjustment bonus, endorsement bonus, profit sharing and overtime — in the first year alone,” Farley said in a statement Thursday. .
32 hours work week
One of the most striking demands put forward by the UAW is the call for a 32-hour work week at full-time pay.
The request comes as a growing list of companies are using a four-day work week, fueling a movement that has accelerated amid a pandemic-era rethinking of the workplace, experts previously told ABC News.
“We need to get back to the fight for a vision of a society where everyone gets enough wages to support a family and everyone has enough free time to enjoy their lives and see their children grow and their parents grow up,” Fine said.
The counteroffer from Ford appears to maintain a five-day workweek. In addition, it is maintaining benefits such as paid time off and family days at the current levels set under the contract reached in 2019.
Under the deal, permanent, full-time employees can take up to five weeks of paid leave per year plus two family days.
“We are committed to creating the opportunity for every UAW worker to build a great career at Ford and become a full-time, permanent employee at Ford with the good middle-class wages and benefits that come with it,” Farley said.
Protecting workers in the event of their factory being shut down
In addition to other reforms, the UAW sought guarantees that workers would continue to be paid if their manufacturing plant closed.
Furthermore, the union sought the right to strike in the event of a factory closure, giving these workers a source of pressure when the company cut production.
“The Big Three want the ability to take our jobs and the products we build and move them to other countries where they can exploit workers more easily,” Fine said. “It leads to massive job losses, devastating local economies and tearing families apart as workers uproot themselves from their lives and homes to travel across the country for another job.”
Farley did not address the issue specifically in a statement released Thursday, but stressed the importance of Ford remaining competitive with other automakers.
“We will not enter into a transaction that jeopardizes our ability to invest, grow and share profits with our employees,” Farley said. “This would mortgage our future and would be detrimental to everyone who has a stake in Ford, including our valued UAW workers.”
ABC News’ Meredith DiLesso contributed reporting.