With a potential strike just two days away, Democratic U.S. Sen. John Fetterman ripped the Big Three car manufacturers on Monday for being unreasonable in high-stakes contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers, arguing the companies’ executive compensation packages make clear that they have plenty of resources to pay workers fairly.
“If the Big Three can find money in the couch cushions to bump executive pay by 40% over the past few years, they sure as hell can find the money to give hard-earned raises to the people who actually build the cars and trucks Pennsylvanians drive,” Fetterman said in a statement.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra, the highest-paid Big Three CEO, took home nearly $29 million in total compensation last year.
Ford chief executive Jim Farley received total compensation of almost $21 million in 2022, while Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares received nearly $25 million.
“It is time for the Big Three to come to the table in good faith and work with UAW to strike a fair deal,” Fetterman said Monday. “UAW is ready, but these companies are being completely unserious.”
The UAW’s contracts with General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis are set to expire on Thursday, just before midnight. An overwhelming majority of participating UAW members voted late last month to authorize a strike if management doesn’t agree to a fair contract by September 14, and recent polling shows the roughly 146,000 autoworkers would have a majority of the U.S. public on their side if they do strike.
“CEO pay went up 40%. No one said a word. No one had any complaints about that. But now, God forbid that workers actually ask for their fair share.”
In an appearance on CNN late Monday, UAW president Shawn Fain said that while the two sides have “made some progress,” there’s still “a long way to go” and “a lot of issues” to resolve.
Ford has been prepping for a possible strike by readying non-union salaried employees to staff key parts distribution centers.
“Stellantis has been making its own preparations to weather a strike by stockpiling parts at a facility in Belvidere, Illinois, near its recently shuttered Belvidere Assembly Plant,” Labor Notesreported Monday. “The company has been staffing the warehouse with newly hired non-union workers—which Stellantis is trying to keep secret because there are 1,300 laid-off UAW members from the assembly plant who still live in the area.”
The UAW rejected initial contract proposals from GM, Ford, and Stellantis as “insulting” and “deeply unfair.” GM and Ford offered wage increases of 10% and 9% respectively over four years, and Stellantis proposed a 14.5% wage hike with no cost-of-living adjustment.
UAW initially called for a 46% wage increase for autoworkers along with other demands, from an end to tiered compensation structures that harm newer workers to a 32-hour workweek with 40 hours of pay.
The union has since lowered its wage-hike demand to 36% over four years, according toBloomberg. “It is now asking for a series of increases over nearly five years that would start with an 18% boost and then alternate between 5% and 4% annually over the subsequent years of the contract,” the outlet reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the UAW’s offer.
Autoworkers’ average hourly wages in the U.S. have fallen by 30% over the past two decades, and the UAW has pointed to major sacrifices autoworkers made during the industry’s crisis in the late 2000s as a reason for its ambitious contract demands. The union agreed to give up retiree healthcare for new hires and cost-of-living adjustments for all members as automakers pushed for a federal bailout in 2008.
“It’s amazing to me how analysts, when workers ask for their fair share, it’s always the end of the world,” Fain told CNN‘s Jake Tapper on Monday. “CEO pay went up 40%. No one said a word. No one had any complaints about that. But now, God forbid that workers actually ask for their fair share of equity in the fruits of the labor and the product they produce.”
Republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).