DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union will present a long list to General Motors, Ford and Stellantis when it delivers economic demands to the companies this week, the union’s president says.
And the message from newly elected chief Shawn Fain is that the companies are making big profits and can afford to pay up.
“Record profits mean record contracts,” Fain told members in a Facebook Live presentation Tuesday evening.
He reiterated potentially costly demands to end different wage tiers among workers, double-digit pay raises and restoration of cost-of-living pay, defined benefit pensions for all workers, and restoring retiree health coverage.
In addition, Fain said the UAW will ask that companies pay workers for doing community service or other work if their plants are closed, an apparent restoration of the much maligned jobs bank that was eliminated in 2009.
He also proposed a 32-hour work week so union members could spend more time with families and enjoying life.
“I know these demands sound ambitious,” he told workers. “But I also know that the Big Three can afford them.”
The union also wants bargaining with electric vehicle joint venture battery factories to be folded into the UAW national agreement. Currently joint ventures are bargaining separately and the UAW represents only one of the plants so far, in Ohio.
Demands were presented to Stellantis on Tuesday. GM will get the list today and Ford on Thursday, Fain said.
The union represents 146,000 workers at the three automakers whose contracts expire at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 14.
Stellantis said in a statement Tuesday that it will review the demands “to understand how they align with our company proposals and where we can find common ground.”
The automaker, with 43,000 union members, said it has been clear from the start that it isn’t seeking concessions.
“As we have done for more than 70 years, we will work constructively and collaboratively with the UAW to find solutions that will result in a contract that is competitive in the global market, responsibly addresses employee concerns and meets the needs of our customers,” the company said.
GM, which has 46,000 UAW-represented workers, said Tuesday night that it will review the demands once it gets them today.
Ford, which employs 57,000 UAW workers, more than either competitor, said it looks forward to working with the union on “creative solutions during this time when our dramatically changing industry needs a skilled and competitive work force more than ever.”
Collectively the Detroit Three made $20.7 billion in net profits in the first half of this year, which Fain said happened while worker pay has remained stagnant or regressed. He railed against CEO pay compared with that of workers and said it would take 16 years for a newly hired worker at GM’s joint venture battery plant in Ohio to make as much as CEO Mary Barra makes in one week.
The demands come as the threat of one or more strikes looms large over the talks. Fain has told workers they are poised to make major gains, but they have to be ready to walk picket lines if needed.
The companies say they have good relationships with the union and contend that their wages and benefits are the best in the industry. In addition, executives have argued that they’re under huge financial pressure to develop electric vehicles and to pay billions for EV and battery factories.