While revenues and sales have increased, some manufacturers have threw up some warnings of further strife if they accept the UAW’s latest demands.
On Thursday, September 14, the United Auto Workers began their strike against all three Southeastern Michigan-based automobile manufacturers. This was an unprecedented move by the union that have not been seen in decades.
Initially. the UAW went on to “target” key production facilities. They amplified their strike action at Stellantis’ Toledo Complex, the General Motors Wentzville Assembly Plant, and Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. These three facilities build the hottest vehicles each manufacturer produces – nameplates such as the Jeep Wrangler, Gladiator, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Ford Bronco and Ranger.
All told, an initial 13,000 UAW members walked off their jobs for this action. Since then, that has expanded to every facility these manufacturers operate with UAW membership labor.
What the UAW is asking for is an increase in wages to offset inflation, the end to the tiered employment system, improved retirement and overtime benefits, improved protections against plant closures for its workers, along with a 32-hour week. These may seem reasonable, yet the industry is balking on some points.
One could say that the COVID-19 Pandemic threw the automotive industry into a financial cyclone. While revenues and sales have increased, some manufacturers have threw up some warnings of further strife if they accept the UAW’s latest demands. Ford’s CEO Jim Farley said that the company would go “bankrupt” if that was the case.
There is a governmental angle to this. President Joe Biden is pushing for more electrified vehicles on the road – particularly, fully battery-electric ones. Whether this is playing a part in the UAW’s negotiations or not is not exactly known. A recent jump in fuel pump prices have thrown everything on its side. Even that has not affected the UAW’s strike action.
It is worth noting that President Biden joined a UAW pocket line in a recent visit to Southeastern Michigan.
Timing is everything. The opening of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit coincided with the start of the UAW’s strike, creating a looming cloud on the festivities at Huntington Center this past week. Some have said that the timing was not the best considering that backdrop. Perhaps a bit opportunist. Others have measured the timeline and figured that it was not just strategic, but necessary considering how the negotiations have been going until that point.
As time goes on. one wonders how long this strike will last. Rather, what impacts it will have to the entire automotive industry – retail and fixed operations included.
This is not the only strike action that has been challenging our country. It is worth mentioning the Writers Guild of America-West and SAG-AFTRA’s current strike action against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The WGA went on strike back on May 2, with SAG-AFTRA following on July 14. While the writers reached a tentative agreement on September 25, the actors are still trying to find some sort of deal.
Mentioning the strike against the entertainment business within some context of the autoworkers’ action illicit some parallels between the two industries. There had been serious changes in the way things have operated since the pandemic. Auto sales were lost, and production was reduced due to the lack of parts and component availability. At the same time, people stayed home and found new ways to watch programming through non-traditional delivery services. Neither of which were anticipated at robust levels since 2019.
There’s also the charge of greed when it comes to compensation for each industry’s high-level executives. It is ideal that we live in a world where the hardest working people should be compensated at above a living wage. Perhaps that is something that should be looked at in order to retain the rank-and-file in each industry.
It all comes down to money. The UAW wants a wage whether their workers can be able to get ahead of the rate of inflation – including the rise of the vehicles they build for the world. The writers that need to be compensated based on not only the scripts they write, but for the residuals they’re supposed to receive every time their work is broadcast – or streamed.
The bottom line is simple: Let’s strike a tentative deal and get back to work.
Photo courtesy of the United Auto Workers