Backgrounder on Big Three Bargaining

The UAW’s Defining Moment at the Big Three Automakers.

The UAW’s historic Stand Up Strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis began on Sept. 15. With new leadership in the union, a historic transition to electric vehicles, and a massively profitable auto industry, the stakes are high.

The Stand Up Strike is a new approach to striking. It is the first time the union has struck all Big Three automakers at the same time. But instead of all 150,000 UAW autoworkers walking out at once, select locals have been called on to “Stand Up” and strike. When an automaker fails to make substantial progress in negotiations toward a fair contract, more locals are called on to Stand Up and join the strike.

They Got Bailed Out. We Got Sold Out.

History: In 2007-09, the Great Recession turned the auto industry upside down. To save it, autoworkers took massive cuts to their wages and benefits. The companies introduced “tiers,” worse pay for the same work. Pensions were eliminated. Post-retirement healthcare vanished for new hires. Jobs were cut. The companies got billions in taxpayer dollars, while autoworkers took deep cuts and made life-changing sacrifices to keep the industry alive.

Flash forward to 2023: The Big Three automakers have made a quarter of a trillion dollars in North American profits over the last decade. CEO pay is up 40% in four years; autoworker wages are up 6% in that time. Inflation is up 18%.

A majority of autoworkers at all three companies are “lower tier” with no retirement healthcare or pensions, and lower wages. It takes upwards of eight years to reach top pay.

The auto companies recovered. The autoworkers haven’t.

Our Issues.

We’re fighting for Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) and fair pay. Inflation has hammered working people in this country. COLA should be restored now that the companies are raking in cash, and raises should reflect those profits.

We’re fighting to end tiers. We need equal pay for equal work. The companies’ “divide and conquer” strategy has created a race to the bottom inside our plants. The abuse of temps, subsidiaries, and second-tier workers has to end. We need to make all auto jobs good jobs.

We’re fighting for job security and a just transition to EVs. Automakers are closing even profitable plants. From Belvidere, Ill., to Lordstown, Ohio, to Romeo, Mich., the Big Three are killing jobs and destroying communities. That must stop. And electric vehicle jobs must be good jobs. The government is giving billions of dollars in EV subsidies to the Big Three, yet workers at their new battery plants are stuck in low-wage and high-risk jobs. The EV transition is a historic opportunity to raise autoworker standards instead of lowering them. The battery plants are not part of the Stand Up Strike, but are part of the broader conversation around a just transition to EVs.

They can afford it.

These companies are making record profits. The Big Three have made a quarter-trillion dollars – $250,000,000,000 – in North American profits from 2013 to 2022.

Ford, GM and Stellantis made $21 billion in total profits in just the first six months of 2023. Record profits mean record contracts.

On the Electric Vehicle Transition.

The UAW supports the transition to a clean auto industry. But a transition to electric vehicles will not succeed without justice for the workers who make the auto industry run.

There is no good reason why electric vehicle manufacturing can’t be the gateway to the middle class that auto jobs have been for generations of union autoworkers. But the early signs of this industry are worrying, prioritizing corporate greed over economic justice. Forcing workers to decide between good jobs and green jobs is a false choice. We can and must achieve both.

The Big Three have made their intentions clear, as they attempt to exploit the transition to electric vehicles to create a race to the bottom. They’re forming “joint venture” battery plants (Ultium at GM, Blue Oval at Ford) to escape the UAW national contracts, lower wages, and weaken health and safety standards. Those battery jobs will eventually replace existing engine and transmission jobs, with plants like Belvidere Assembly already closing. Autoworkers can support this transition, but only if the companies aren’t allowed to slash their wages, benefits, and working conditions in the process.

On the 2024 Election.

We’re focused on winning the best possible contract for our members in 2023, and then we can talk 2024. We want to see a federal government that is actively supporting our fight for economic justice in this green transition. A green transition with trickle-down economics won’t work.

On the Record.

We’ve been very clear about our fight for a Big Three contract that lifts standards for autoworkers and every worker. Here are just a few of the public statements we’ve made.

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