If you are a supporter of corporate greed being reined in and workers using their collective bargaining power to force their employers to give them a piece of the pie, the UAW work stoppage is a welcome development.
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If you are a fan of huge CEO salaries and bonuses, massive stock buybacks, and companies raking in record profits while their workers are struggling, the news that the United Auto Workers (UAW) began a limited strike Friday must be terribly upsetting.
However, if you are a supporter of corporate greed being reined in and workers using their collective bargaining power to force their employers — the Big Three automakers in this case — to give them a piece of the pie, the work stoppage is a welcome development.
For now, the walkout at three plants — one each of Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis — is limited to a few thousand workers, but it could turn into a full-blown strike if the Big Three companies continue to lowball the people who make their products.
What the UAW and its nearly 150,000 members want is easy: To share the windfalls that their employers and shareholders enjoy.
Instead of a mere pay raise, which seems more than appropriate in light of the high inflation of the past couple of years, UAW members want to make more money when the companies they work for do.
Specifically, the union proposes salary increases that match those of CEOs and make up for many years of declining real wages.
In addition, to counteract future surges in inflation, the UAW is demanding a cost-of-living adjustment.
Finally, while the car companies are using their huge profits for stock buybacks or dividends, the union wants its members to not be left out.
In its contract proposal, they would get $2 for every $1 million spent on stock buybacks, special dividends, and increases to normal dividends.
Then, there are also a variety of proposals that would improve employees’ work-life balance, such as more paid time off and holidays.
None of this sounds unreasonable, especially in light of the massive amounts of money the Big Three are raking in.
In the first half of 2023, Stellantis reported a profit of $11.6 billion, Ford $3.7 billion, and General Motors $5 billion.
“They could double our raises and not raise car prices — and still make billions of dollars in profit,” UAW President Shawn Fain said this week. “They spent more money enriching shareholders in a year than they spent on us in the entirety of the last contract cycle.”
The UAW strike is the second high-profile labor fight going on in the US right now. Hollywood writers and actors are also engaged in an existential battle to shield their jobs from the emerging threat that artificial intelligence poses.
While it is too early to tell, it is possible that, if successful, these strikes could spur other workers to realize that they collectively have a lot of power.
In addition, the pandemic years have highlighted the increasing wealth gap, which has resulted in the rich getting richer and everybody else getting left behind.
Just for that reason, it will be interesting to see how the UAW’s fight works out.