Detroit residents are very familiar with the three biggest names in the American automotive industry: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, collectively known as the “Big Three”. In one year, these three companies will be entering into employment contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers union for the first time since 2011. The UAW represents almost 400,000 workers employed with the Big Three. This may be the biggest challenge to date for the recently appointed president of the UAW.
The UAW’s agenda includes pay revision for veteran workers and more equitable wages for newer, Tier 2 workers. The UAW will try to convince the auto giants to raise wages for workers, including long-time workers who have not received a raise since 2007. Also on the agenda are the wages of newer workers who earn much lesser than veterans. The UAW will also target the gap between older and newer employees in terms of retirement benefits.
The upcoming negotiations are crucial for the UAW because of Michigan’s newly implemented “right to work” laws. For the first time, auto workers will have the option of shunning UAW membership if they do not like it. The president of the UAW said that “right to work” laws have the potential to affect next year’s negotiations but they would not be the union’s focus because trends in other “right to work” states show that labor unions have been successful in retaining members despite these laws.
This is an exciting time for many workers in Michigan because the last negotiations, held in 2011, resulted in 28,000 new jobs being added or kept by the Big Three, record-setting profit-sharing checks for UAW workers, and pay increases for newer workers. The UAW is undoubtedly looking for a similar result next year. The situation remains sensitive, however, because the UAW will not rule out the possibility of strikes to make sure the companies take the negotiations seriously.
Source: DetroitNews.com, “UAW readies for Big Three contract showdowns,” David Shepardson, Oct. 2, 2014