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UAW president says auto strike would hurt mostly ‘billionaire class’

UAW votes to authorize a strike against major automakers
Posted at 10:58 AM, Sep 12, 2023

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain denied Monday that the broad economy will be hurt if his union goes on strike against the nation’s three unionized automakers as soon as this week. He said the only ones that will be hurt by a work stoppage are those in the “billionaire class.”

The UAW’s contracts with the nation’s three unionized automakers — General Motors, Ford and Stellantis — all expire at 11:59 pm Thursday. In an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN Monday afternoon, Fain reiterated that the union’s 145,000 members at those automakers are ready to strike Friday. He said the the union and three companies are still far apart in negotiations for a new contract despite meeting throughout the weekend and again on Monday.

When asked about concern that a strike could harm to the economy and drive up car prices, Fain replied that new car prices have gone up in the last four years without any strike or big raises for his members.

“In the last four years, the price of cars went up 30%. [Automakers’] CEO pay went up 40%. No one said a word. No one had any complaints about that but God forbid the workers ask for their fair share,” he said. “It’s not [that] we’ll wreck the economy. We’ll wreck their economy, the economy that only works for the billionaire class and not the working class.”

The union originally asked for an immediate 20% raise for members and four additional 5% raises over the four-year life of the contract. That would raise pay about 46% over that period. Ford and General Motors are offering 10% raises in the wage rate in negotiations so far, and Stellantis, which makes cars and trucks under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler brands, is offering 14.5%.

Fain would not say where the union’s wage demands now stand, other than to say, “yeah, we’ve been countering.” But he put responsibility on automakers for there being such a large gap with so little time left before the strike deadline.

“We gave our economic demands to these companies well over a month ago,” he said. He said the union told the automakers not to wait to try to settle everything in the final days.

“Unfortunately they didn’t heed our advice,” he said.

The automakers all declined the opportunity to appear on CNN Monday. They are all on the record as saying they hope to be able to reach a deal with the union without a strike.

“There was good energy among both teams and great momentum to reach an agreement,” said Tobin Williams, senior vice president of North American human resources for Stellantis in a message to company employees Monday describing the progress in negotiations over the weekend. He said the company would present a new offer to the union on Monday.

“There is still more work to do, but we know that Stellantis and the UAW have a shared interest in these discussions: reaching an agreement that secures the future for our employees and their families,” said the company’s message.