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Autoworkers' Strike Expands, CEOs Too Busy Swimming In Money To Meet UAW Demands
It's a hard life.
The United Auto Workers union expanded its strike against US car manufacturers Monday, with 6,800 workers walking out of a Stellantis pickup assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, to pressure the company to get its contract offer on par with those from General Motors and Ford. Stellantis, you’ll recall, is the weirdass international conglomerate based in the Netherlands that now owns the remnants of Chrysler Corporation, after partnerships with Mercedes, Fiat, and a series of Albanian arms dealers didn’t quite work out.
The plant in Michigan manufactures the company’s popular RAM 1500 pickup trucks, which we just learned this morning haven’t been “Dodge”-branded pickups since 2009, after the Fiat merger. I bet I’m not the only one, huh? In the USA, Stellantis also make Jeep, Dodge, Chrysler, and we think Nutella.
In a statement, the UAW said it was time for Stellantis to get its shit together, and no, changing the company name again wouldn’t cut it.
Despite having the highest revenue, the highest profits (North American and global), the highest profit margins, and the most cash in reserve, Stellantis lags behind both Ford and General Motors in addressing the demands of their UAW workforce. Currently, Stellantis has the worst proposal on the table regarding wage progression, temporary worker pay and conversion to full-time, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), and more.
Oh, great, now they’re making soft drinks, too?
With the latest walkouts, the total number of UAW members who’ve idled factories and distribution centers is up to 40,000, as the strike nears the six-week point.
The union has called for a 40 percent pay increase for autoworkers, who accepted big concessions when automakers were struggling to stay in business during the 2007-2008 recession. According to Bloomberg News (we guess it’s just “Bloomberg” though, like “Business Insider” is calling itself just “Insider” and “Meet the Press” is now “Those Fucking Useless Shits”), insiders say the UAW hopes to actually get the manufacturers to agree to at least a 30 percent wage hike. But the poor sad manufacturers say they’re strapped, oh dear!
So far, Ford says its offer of a 23% raise is as high as it can go, while GM and Stellantis have been reluctant to offer much more than roughly 20% increases.
As that Bloomberg piece discusses in detail, autoworkers — union and non-union —have seen their real income drop about 30 percent since 2003, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics; that’s due to both the Great Recession agreement to allow lower wages for new hires, and also to the expansion of vehicle manufacturing in “right to work for nothing” states.
But since 2010, the article notes, the various CEOs of the Big Three have done pretty well for themselves, with more than $1 billion in total compensation going to the 10 people who’ve been chief executives at the corporations in that time. During just those 13 years, autoworkers (again, all of ‘em) had a 17 percent drop in wages.
Just to remind average working stiffs of all the ways corporate executives get money rubbed all over them, Bloomberg specifies,
The $1 billion total that Detroit carmaker CEOs have taken home includes salaries, bonuses, the value of stock awards, fringe benefits and special payouts linked to retirement or corporate transactions. A spokesperson for Stellantis noted that recent mergers resulted in large one-time pay packages for the previous CEOs.
But wait, the companies all reminded Bloomberg reporters, a lot of that compensation is tied to how well the corporations meet performance targets, so “If results worsen, payouts shrink.” That’s fair, huh? At least until you parse that and realize it means CEOs still rake in pretty good money even when the companies don’t. As Bloomberg notes, each of the current CEOs has a base salary of “at least $1.7 million, regardless of performance,” which suggests they just might be able to get by.
The new walkout at Stellantis this week and the recent action against Ford’s pickup plant in Kentucky are aimed at the manufacturers’ most popular and most profitable gas-guzzlers, and the costs to the companies are substantial, as Reuters reports:
"Expanding it to the pickup trucks is really at the heart of what these companies produce," said Tim Ghriskey, a senior investment strategist at Ingalls & Snyder […]
Wells Fargo analyst Colin Langan estimated that production losses at the truck plant will cost Stellantis $110 million in operating earnings per week, doubling the automaker's overall hit from the strikes to about $200 million a week.
The plant accounted for about 16% of North American production for Stellantis and is proportional to the strike against Ford's Kentucky plant in terms of production, said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University.
But don’t go crying sad empathetic tears for the poor automakers just yet, because even with the strike, they’re not exactly reduced to selling corporate-branded gewgaws on Etsy just yet. As the New York Times reports today, General Motors’ third-quarter profits came in higher than analysts predicted, at $3.1 billion, despite a seven-percent decline in overall income due to the strike. The strike is costing GM about $200 million a week, so there’s an incentive to meet the union’s demands.
Separate from the walkout at the big automakers, the UAW reached a tentative contract agreement with military contractor General Dynamics this weekend that, if ratified, should keep about 1,100 union workers on the assembly lines building Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles. Reuters reports that the four-year deal “provides a 14% wage hike, protection against inflation, reduces the time it takes to get to top pay and ‘beats back the company's proposed healthcare concessions,’” according to the UAW. Tanks a lot!
And finally here’s a nice thing: Dropkick Murphys dropped by the UAW picket line at a Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, on Sunday to sing a union song — through a bullhorn. This is the Way.
We like the sweatshirt that says “No Justice, No Jeep” (It’s a picture of a Jeep.)
We should note that while Dropkick Murphys have had many different band members — singer Ken Casey is the only member left from the band’s founding lineup in 1996 — they haven’t gone changing their name like some silly truck company might, so there.
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