June 18, 2024

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UAW president rejects 21% pay raise offer from Stellantis

The president of the United Auto Workers union on Sunday rejected a public offer by Jeep’s parent company Stellantis for a 21 percent wage increase over four years, pushing a historic coordinated strike against the nation’s three largest automakers into its third day.

Stellantis, based in the Netherlands, was founded in 2021 through the merger of the French companies Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot. He said Saturday It offered the union a “very competitive” 21 percent pay increase. The union said it had “reasonably productive” talks with Ford on Saturday and plans to meet with GM as well. Both companies have offered 20 percent raises over four years.

But on Sunday morning, UAW President Shawn Fain said Stellantis’ 21 percent offer and other conditions offered by the automakers were not enough and that the strike would continue.

“This is definitely objectionable,” Fine said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He added: “We asked for a 40 percent pay increase. The reason we asked for a 40% pay increase is because in the last four years alone, CEO pay has increased by 40%.

About 12,700 UAW members, or 8 percent of the union’s auto workers, went on strike Friday, demanding higher wages and more equal treatment and benefits for temporary workers, who have seen their wages lag behind full-time workers for years. It is the first time the UAW has gone on strike against America’s three largest automakers simultaneously.

Why UAW workers say they’re on strike

The strike comes at a time when unemployment in the United States has reached its lowest levels historically, but the repercussions of the epidemic and high inflation have increased workers’ anxiety. Companies have continued to make profits and increase executive pay, and auto workers are among a resurgence of widespread union activity in the United States, as workers from nurses to screenwriters and Hollywood actors seek better wages and job security.

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Although the UAW strike only affects a few factories, Fine said the union is prepared to do “whatever we have to do” and extend the work stoppages. “If we don’t get better offers and don’t take care of the members’ needs, we’re going to push this even more,” Fine said.

Finn’s comments softened What hope did Saturday’s negotiations generate of reaching a quick solution? The union is asking for a 36 percent raise over four years, a four-day work week, a defined-benefit pension and company-funded health care upon retirement. Automakers have responded that their offers to the union are among the best in history, but they cannot meet all of their demands while remaining profitable.

A Stellantis spokesman said the company will resume negotiations with the UAW on Monday. Spokespeople for Ford and GM did not respond to requests for comment.

“We’re all hopeful that this will be over sooner rather than later. Record profits have been made,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who was traveling to Detroit on Sunday. “It’s only fair that everyone participate in that Record profits in the prosperity created.”

Over the weekend, workers gathered in picket lines at factories where the UAW had begun a strike. Spirits were high as supporters brought supplies and honked their car horns in solidarity.

“We want to be middle class again,” said Andrew Hudson, a production worker on strike outside the Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, where the company makes Ranger trucks and Bronco SUVs. A few weeks ago, Hudson reached Ford’s highest pay rate, $32 an hour, but it took six years to reach that level. He said he is striking mostly because he does not want his new colleagues to have to wait as many years for the higher pay as he had to.

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“We can’t experience the American dream that so many auto workers before us, like my grandfather, had,” said Hudson, whose grandfather was able to own a house and two cars while putting his children through college on an auto worker’s salary. By contrast, Hudson said he and his colleagues are “struggling” to do the same with their salaries.

Nicholas Harvey, 33, a single father who works as a materials handler, said he was on strike to get higher pay. At $24.85 an hour, he said, he had to move back in with his parents after separating from his wife. “This was a desirable job,” he said. “But I’m paycheck to paycheck. I want to own a house and save money for it [my kids’] College, but it’s hard to save.

Meanwhile, the specter of a presidential election loomed over a strike, with politicians from both parties contributing to the intervention. President Biden and former President Donald Trump, the front-runner in the Republican contest, have taken contrasting approaches, with Biden saying automakers should match “record corporate profits” with “standard contracts” for workers and Trump criticizing the UAW president. Biden said on Friday that he would send two of his senior advisers to help complete the deal.

Midwestern states where auto factories are traditionally concentrated, including Michigan, are expected to be key battlegrounds in the 2024 elections. But Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) warned Sunday that politicians should keep their distance. “I don’t think the president should get involved or come to the negotiating table,” Dingell told CBS.

For his part, Fine said another Trump presidency would be a “disaster,” but he refrained from endorsing Biden, saying the president should earn the title of “the most pro-union president” in history.

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Trump and other Republicans have criticized Democrats for pushing the country toward electric cars, many of which are not manufactured in the United States. Democrats said companies need to take their workers into account as they push to switch to more climate-friendly cars. Chinese companies such as BYD currently dominate the global electric car market, and even American companies such as Tesla order their batteries, the main component of an electric car, from foreign manufacturers.

“Anyone who doesn’t believe global warming is happening isn’t paying attention,” Fine said Sunday. But this transition must be a fair transition. As it stands now, workers are being left behind.”

The Big Three automakers are ramping up their design and production of electric vehicles as Americans’ interest in buying cars continues to grow. A major strike could hamper that shift, and the ability of traditional automakers to catch up with foreign rivals and electric-only producers like Tesla, said Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

“A long, dirty hit… would be an absolute disaster for the Detroit Three,” Ives said. He added that any delay in increasing the production of electric cars would benefit Tesla, which was facing increasing competition from traditional car manufacturers.

Lauren Gourley contributed to this report from Wayne, Michigan.