The United Auto Workers on Thursday filed formal unfair labor practice complaints with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board against General Motors and Stellantis, accusing them of refusing to bargain in good faith toward new master contracts.
The complaints – and UAW President Shawn Fain’s scorching video address to union members on Thursday evening – were an unusually aggressive escalation of tensions ahead of the Sept. 14 expiration of the current contracts – also known as the strike deadline.
Fain’s beef with GM and Stellantis is that the companies have not presented detailed wage and benefit proposals in response to the union’s demands for immediate 20% wage hikes, cost of living escalators, a return to defined benefit pension plans and an end to “tiered” wage systems that pay newer hires less than veterans.
In the past, the UAW and Detroit automakers didn’t get down to the nitty gritty of economic issues until after Labor Day – Sept. 5 this year. GM and Stellantis expressed surprise and irritation in statements that Fain and the UAW now accuse them of improper delays and bad faith.
As for Ford, the company has made a proposal – and released many of its details Thursday. Fain, in his Facebook Live address, rejected the offer point by point, saying Ford has offered a 9% wage increase that is meager compared to the billions paid out to shareholders. Fain also accused Ford of trying to open the door to replacing all full-time UAW workers at its U.S. plants with temporary employees at lower wage rates.
“This trash can is overflowing with the bullshit the Big Three continue to peddle,” Fain declared, brandishing an office waste bin like the one where he threw Stellantis’ earlier contract proposals.
The UAW President is trying to define his union’s fight as bigger than the Detroit Three – a point he made colorfully in his pre-Labor Day talk.
"We have to fight to get the 40-hour work week back,” Fain said, referring to the long hours Americans work. “Why is that? So another asshole can shoot himself to the moon?"
Workers in a range of industries from package delivery to airlines to Hollywood are striking – or threatening to strike. They are gambling that the near-term shortage of willing workers gives leverage to fend off longer-term threats from automation, artificial intelligence and technology disruptions such as the shift to electric vehicles.
The countdown clock in Detroit is ticking.