UAW begins historic strike of automakers Ford, GM and Stellantis – National & International News – FRI 15Sep2023

UAW begins historic strike of Ford, GM and Stellantis.

Texas Senators deliberating in AG Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial. 


UAW begins historic strike of Ford, GM and Stellantis

As of midnight last night, Ford, GM, and Stellantis (Chrysler’s parent company) had failed to come to an agreement with United Auto Workers, and the union has called a strike at all three companies. This is one of the single-largest US strike actions in decades and the first time UAW has ever called strikes at all the Detroit Three automakers simultaneously.

UAW is seeking about a 40% raise for its members over the life of the contract. So far, the top offers from the automakers have been at around half that figure. The union is also seeking the restoration of defined benefit pensions; the end of a tw0-tiered compensation system that pays new hires less that other workers doing the same work; and a 32-hour workweek with 40 hours of pay. The automakers haven’t receptive to any of those proposals.

Right now, about 12,700 of UAWs 150,000 members across the three companies have walked off the job. This is part of a “stand up” strike strategy that allows UAW to walk off workers at selected key locations without calling a costly full strike. For now, the majority of members are continuing to work, now with expired contracts, but retain all rights and protections they had before the contract expired.

The strategy will allow UAW more flexibility in its strikes and give them the ability to escalate to more locations, depending on the progress of negotiations. As Sofus Nielson, a 29-year Ford employee striking in Michigan put it, “This way we can be out here longer and hurt them more.”

Decades of grievance

Following the 2008 economic downturn, UAW members accepted deep cuts in wages and benefits to help keep their ailing companies afloat. Then in 2009, the US auto industry received a multi-billion dollar federal bailout and quickly returned to profitability.

Over the past decade, the Detroit Three have earned about $250 billion in profits in North America alone. In just the first half of 2023, the companies made a combined $21 billion in profits, 80% more than the same period in 2022.

Despite record profits, the Detroit Three’s workers have not fared nearly as well. The wages of the companies’ workers now have 20% less buying power than they did in 2008. Meanwhile, CEO pay at the three companies has increased by 40% since 2013. In 2022, Ford CEO Jim Farley made $21m (281 times the average Ford worker); General Motors CEO Mary Barra made $29m (362 times the median wage at the company); and Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares made $24.8m (365 times the average workers’ wage).

In a stunning rebuke of this growing wage gap, 97% of UAW’s membership voted last month to authorize a strike. Striking workers will make heavy sacrifices. While on strike, a worker’s only income will be the $500/week cheques from UAW’s $825 million strike fund. For the average Ford worker, that’s about 34% of their normal pay; 32% for the average GM worker; and 38% for the average Stellantis worker.

The automakers insist that meeting UAW’s demands would leave them financially unstable and jeopardize their transition to electric vehicles. The UAW rejects this premise, citing the companies’ record profits and CEO pay. Moreover, the three companies spent $9 billion on stock buybacks last year. This money could have been re-invested in the companies, their futures or their workers. Instead, they used it boost the earnings of company executives and shareholders.

EVs and the union’s future

UAW is seeking job security guarantees in the event of plant closures. As the Detroit Three shift production to electric vehicles, some workers building internal combustion vehicles will become redundant. Fewer workers are needed to assemble EVs than internal combustion vehicles.

However, EV batteries require a lot of labor to produce, and the Detroit Three are planning to build 10 EV battery factories in the US to qualify for certain tax incentives and subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year. UAW wants to ensure that those new facilities are unionized and is already working on organizing existing US plants. This will both provide workers laid-off from traditional factories new employment opportunities with comparable pay and benefits, and also ensure the future viability of the union itself.

So far, there hasn’t been much reporting on where the offers from automakers stand on the union’s demands for job security during the EV transition. However, it is no doubt a key point of contention, since the companies are already investing billions in this emerging industry.


Texas Senators deliberating in AG Ken Paxton’s impeachment

Nearly two weeks of testimony in the senate impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has come to a close. The Texas state senators are now deliberating his fate, and a verdict could come as soon as today. If the senators vote to convict, Paxton will be removed from office, ending nearly a decade of scandal and controversy.

Paxton has become something of a darling among right-wing conservatives, even earning the admiration of Donald Trump. Paxton has used the power of his office to disrupt Biden administration policies, ruthlessly enforce his state’s draconian abortion bans, and push other highly-visible conservative policies. But according to his own aides, Paxton did not apply his zeal for upholding conservative values either to his professional or personal life.

In 2020, seven of Paxton’s aides filed ethics complaints against him. They alleged that Paxton had fired them when they raised concerns about his use of the power of his office to shield Austin real estate developer Nate Paul from federal prosecution. According to Paul’s deposition, he had also hired Paxton’s affair partner at Paxton’s urging. Paul also enabled Paxton to continue the affair and helped him conceal it. The articles of impeachment against Paxton also contain a charge that Paul bribed Paxton by paying for Paxton’s home renovation.

Here is the full list of the 16 articles of impeachment the Senate is deliberating. Paxton’s wife, Angela, is also a state senator but has been barred from the deliberations. That leaves the vote to 30 of 31 Texas senators, with a two-thirds vote required for a conviction. If all 12 Democratic senators vote to convict, they’ll need 9 Republican senators to join them.

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