The UAW Strike Isn’t Just About the Big Three

( – On September 15, United Auto Workers (UAW) union members launched their historic strike against Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. UAW officials are asking for double-digit pay increases, shorter work weeks, and improved benefits. However, as Breitbart News recently reported, the strike represents a protest against President Joe Biden’s economic failures as well as one against the Big Three automakers.

In 2009, Ford, GM, and Chrysler (now Stellantis) bargained away contracts that tied auto worker pay to inflation. Instead, workers would receive a one-time annual payment to offset the impact of rising costs. At the time, the concession on automatic inflation adjustments (cost of living allowance – COLA) wasn’t a big deal since the Federal Reserve had been keeping inflation around three percent since the early 1990s.

The presumed taming of inflation fell apart with the passage of the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers’ beloved American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (HR-1319). The plan cost roughly $1.9 trillion and drove inflation to a nationwide peak of 8.9% in June 2022. Unfortunately for autoworkers, it hit 9.7% in the US Department of Labor’s Detroit/Warren/Dearborn district. Year-on-year, inflation has dropped nationwide to 3.7% in 2023 but remains at 5.9% in Michigan — the home to numerous auto manufacturing plants.

As a result, UAW negotiators are demanding a return to the old COLA formula for determining automatic pay increases based on inflation.

So far, all three car companies are refusing to budge on making an acceptable shift to payscales based on the rising cost of living. UAW President Shawn Fain discussed negotiations in a September 13 speech before UAW members.

Fain explained that Ford proposed returning to the COLA formula, “but with a diversion… projected to provide less than [a] dollar of wage protection over… four years.” He confirmed that GM proposed a similar deal, which is “projected to provide zero… in actual pay raises.” Similarly, Stellantis is offering UAW workers a choice between a “deficient COLA” plan similar to the other two auto manufacturers or “lump sums that many workers won’t receive.”

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