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Why is the moment right for a UAW strike?

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Members of the United Auto Workers union on Friday voted overwhelmingly in favor of allowing a strike by the so-called three Detroit automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellaants — if they fail to offer a competitive contract by the time the current one expires on Sept. 14. .

The strike authorization is the latest in a series of high-profile labor actions in the United States over the past year, including the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and Writer’s Guild of America strikes, UPS’s strike authorization that led to a fair contract, and the threat of a strike. Rail strike in the United States which the government thwarted in December. While all of these actions point to a more visible labor presence in the economy, UAW strike authorization — such as the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike — is more than just Only the conditions under which workers will perform their duties. What the UAW also wants is to have a say in what the industry looks like as it changes with technological developments such as the shift to electric vehicles.

The United Workers’ Union represents about 150,000 workers in the three companies – 97% of whom voted in favor of allowing strikes. UAW President Sean Fine indicated that the union would not extend on September 14 The deadline to ratify a new contract is four years. Union talks with automakers began in July. According to ReutersIt’s progressed slowly since then, Fine said. He added, “We have a lot of options that we are studying, but extending the contract is not one of them.”

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Fine and the UWF are calling for a series of pay increases and benefits improvements or reimpositions to offset worker privileges over the past few decades, which would eliminate the two-tiered employment system put in place by the three Detroit plants since 2007.

American labor unions enjoyed power and popular support until the 1970s and 1980s, when a group of labor unions was formed. A series of corruption scandals and the Reagan administration’s breach of policy Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization The BATCO strike of 1981 greatly weakened collective bargaining. Globalization, especially after the entry into force of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the 1990s, also weakened labor power, as companies could – and did – move their operations to countries where labor was cheaper, destroying entire industries and swathes of country.

This has led to lower wages despite higher inflation, as well as lower benefits such as pensions, even as the cost of living has risen. And in 2023, companies can now use the specter of AI and automation as a bargaining chip against the future of workers.

The UAW’s proposed contract aims to rectify the past

Like all union contracts, the UAW is highly ambitious. Unions enter negotiations knowing they will have to concede some elements of what they are asking for, so they aim high. In the case of the UAW, as well as in other striking industries, contracts are trying to regain lost ground and protect workers in the future.

“We’re fed up,” Finn said. Reuters. “We’ve sat around for decades while these companies keep giving and taking from us.”

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real wage growth, which represents actual purchasing power, Stagnant since the eighties, and only reached 1983 levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, wages have not grown at the same rate as the cost of living. 401(k) plans have replaced retirement benefitsWhich increases the pressure on the worker to save for retirement – despite the boom in worker productivity over the past 50 years.

US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The UAW is striking to reverse some of these changes Including in her request for contract defined benefit pension and the re-establishment of the Retiree Medical Benefits Program. The union is also demanding a wage increase of 46 percent for the duration of the contract to keep pace with the increased cost of living, as well as the return of the cost-of-living allowance that was It was eliminated in 2009 After saving the auto industry. With major automakers close to bankruptcy, the UAW renegotiated its contract at the request of the federal government.

But the main motive for the strike is actually the two-tier wage system that was first put in place in 1939 2007 UAW contract; Workers hired before then are in Tier 1 and start at about $28 an hour, while Tier 2 workers start at between $16 and $19 an hour – a rate that has only barely increased over the past decade. The second-class worker class grows as first-class workers retire and are replaced by new second-class workers, ultimately driving down the wages of an increasing number of workers—who are also Increasingly make up the UAW membership.

A UAW strike would seriously affect the auto industry – and business in general

There are many reasons why employment has become more visible over the past few years, and workers seem increasingly willing to ask their employers for more. This does not necessarily mean that the United States is living in a new era of the workforce, and even this phrase does not mean what it did in the first half of the twentieth century.

Amazon’s Chris Smalls was a prominent figure calling for the right to unionize and better conditions for fellow workers, and the joint SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes were very visible as they targeted the entertainment industry, putting people’s favorite TV shows and movies on hold until studios and unions could agree on fair contracts – Including the use of generative AI in writing and shooting movies and TV shows.

Likewise, the UAW strike is not just about raising individual living standards, but also looking at the impact technology can have on jobs in this sector. As the industry shifts from combustion engines to battery-electric cars, manufacturing will need fewer workers with different skills, says Peter Berg, a professor of labor relations at Michigan State University. he told Michigan State University today.

If the strike moves forward — and Berg told Fox in an interview that he thinks it will in some form — it could cost each company up to $500 billion per week in outages. According to Deutsche Bank analyst Emanuel Rosner.

The moment is right for workers to try to make up for the losses of the past few decades and try to get protection and benefits for the future; There is a narrow labor market, an aging workforce, rising consumer demand, and political and popular support for trade unions. “These strikes are on the part of the trade unions [are saying]“Well, we have to renegotiate the fundamentals of how work is done,” Berg said, and “use its power to redefine business conditions moving forward.”

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