The UAW Fumbles An Important Test With Workers

by | Jun 22, 2023 | Bargaining/Negotiations, Corruption, Strikes, UAW

Incoming UAW President Shawn Fain’s entrance into office, fairly or not, was mired in accusations about the union’s sham election. This isn’t shocking after decades of the UAW’s corrupt ways. Still, more importantly for our purposes today, Fain, who ran as a “reform” candidate, isn’t delivering on his promises right out of the gate.

That’s the case according to auto supply workers who, with what workers believe is a sell-out deal, are dismayed at the union ending a six-week strike at Clarios. The contract includes 3% annual raises, often considered standard at best. These workers will not receive overtime pay for 12-hour workdays. Additionally, the union disregarded workers’ opposition to a newly instituted “2-3-3 schedule,” i.e., 12-hour shifts for two days on, two days off, and three days on.

If this Clarios deal – which disappointed workers like a recent UAW higher-ed deal upset university workers – is a harbinger of what’s to come for the Detroit Big Three negotiations, we could see many more fireworks to come this year.

This doesn’t bode well for a union president who vowed “war against the one and only true enemy.” Recently, Fain also referred to the Detroit Big Three as ruled by “corporate greed” while promising the “fight of a generation” and telling automakers that it’s time to “pony up” or face the wrath of the UAW’s $825 million strike fund.

The clock is ticking on Fain to impress UAW members. And considering that he previously hailed Clarios strikers as an “inspiration” to fellow UAW members, he has some cleanup to do.  Still to come: negotiations for 150 workers who went on strike at Constellium Automotive, which supplies Ford F-150 components, after the union filed ULP charges to accuse the company of bargaining in bad faith.

No matter what happens there, the Detroit Big Three negotiations are right around the corner. In early June, the UAW officially began the 100-day countdown before the Sept. 14 expiration of Ford, GM, and Stellantis contracts that cover 150,000 autoworkers.

As part of these negotiations, the UAW will also take on battery-factory pay, although there’s no guarantee that the union can unionize those plants in the first place. All told, GM, Ford, and Stellantis will likely hire 18,000 workers at these EV plants, and those are membership dues that the UAW desperately needs due to their dwindling membership. As well, Toyota is preparing to build a new EV battery lab in Michigan, too.

Let’s close with some positive and negative news for the UAW:

A small UAW victory: 200 workers at Webasto Roof Systems’ Michigan-based auto parts supply plant voted to join the UAW. That doesn’t make up for disappointing Clarios workers, so stay tuned for more drama.

A shuttering: The UAW protested the closure of the century-old Milwaukee Master Lock plant that employs 330 union workers. The facility will shutter in March 2024.

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