11/3/2023, 12:42 a.m.
Sending a message to corporate America, the United Auto Workers has proven that labor unions are no longer on the wane.
A nearly seven-week strike has forced America’s big three vehicle manufacturers to ink historic five-year deals with the UAW that have reversed 44 years of waning influence. The manufacturers bent as losses due the strike soared into the billions for Ford, GM and Stellaris.
President Biden, who supported the strike and became the first leader of the nation to participate in a picket line, hailed the deals.
We agree with his assessment that these agreements are “a testament to the power of unions and collective bargaining to build strong middle-class jobs while helping our most iconic American companies thrive.”
In our view, when companies invest in their workforce rather than in their stockholders, families and communities are better off.
The deals with the three companies, which union members at each company still must approve, include 25% pay increases and restoration of cost-of-living adjustments that will push starting pay to more than $62,000 over the nearly five-year life of the contract and top pay to more than $87,000, the UAW noted.
Just as importantly, the companies can no longer employ temporary workers indefinitely and agreed to give up a two-tier system in which new workers were paid less than older workers.
The UAW, which has watched 64 auto plants close over the past two decades, got Stellaris to agree to reopen one plant and restart production that it planned to close.
The company also agreed to beef up the workforce at two other plants that were on a shutdown list. For the UAW, that means growth in jobs and members and economic progress for the factories’ localities.
Ford, too, agreed to more than $8 billion in new investment that also will mean more domestic growth and jobs for UAW members, while GM’s agreement, among other things, will provide the first payments in 15 years to retired employees to boost pensions.
GM, which is partially owned by UAW’s health and retirement trust, also agreed to use the UAW wage scale at new battery plants, another boost for workers.
Such bullish terms for workers were never included in President Obama’s bailout package for the auto industry.
In 2009, when automakers were facing collapse in the Great Recession, auto workers had to agree to give up the right to strike for six years, accept the two-tier wage system and agree to an end to company contributions to the UAW health and pension trust.
The UAW victory follows significant wins for unionized workers at United Parcel Service as well as for Hollywood writers.
The bottom line: Big Labor is back after years of kowtowing to corporate managers. And that’s good news.