In a salary dispute with three of America’s largest automakers, US President Joe Biden has backed with striking workers.
On Friday, about 13,000 employees at three plants owned by General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis chose to leave their jobs.
The United Auto Workers union (UAW) and the businesses are at odds over the conditions of new labor agreements.
In remarks on Friday, Mr. Biden claimed that while “no-one” favored industrial action, he understood the frustration of workers.
“Workers deserve a fair share,” he declared. The corporations have made some sizable offers, but in my opinion, more should be done to guarantee that record corporate earnings translate into record contracts.
The strike was prompted by the expiration of current labor contracts on Thursday. The strike is the first in union history to simultaneously target all three firms, despite its existing limitations.
The UAW, which represents more than 140,000 workers at the companies, has also issued a warning that, depending on how discussions go, it may decide to extend the walkout.
Along with other requests, the union is asking for a wage increase of 40% over the course of the contract, which is far more than the 20% that the corporations have officially offered.
The union has used the pay increases for corporate executives, who each earned remuneration packages worth more than $20 million last year, to support their demands.
Currently, full-time employees at their plants are paid an hourly wage of up to $32 depending on seniority, in addition to incentives and other benefits. Less money is made by temporary workers, a group the union is working to eliminate.
The conflict might result in increased car pricing and a significant upheaval for the automotive industry’s titans.
The businesses contend that the demands of the unions are excessive at a time when they are investing heavily in the switch to electric vehicle production.
In an interview with the BBC’s US news partner, CBS, General Motors CEO Mary Barra said, “We have to make sure the company’s going to succeed for the next 115 years,” adding that the company was continuing to negotiate to attempt to address the disagreements.
Ford revealed on Friday that it had fired 600 employees from an assembly factory in Michigan as “a result of the strike.”
The battle will be a test for Mr. Biden, who has failed to persuade people of his economic leadership in the face of persistent inflation.
In order to assist in the negotiations, the Democratic president announced that he will dispatch key advisers, including Labour Secretary Julie Su, to Detroit, Michigan.
Mr. Biden has positioned himself as the most pro-union president in history, and he plans to run for reelection next year with the help of organized labor.
However, there have been occasions when his relationships have been strained, such as when he signed a measure last year to halt a US rail workers’ strike.
The UAW announced in May that it would not support his reelection bid due to worries that worker guarantees had not been made in exchange for government subsidies for companies developing electric vehicles.
On Friday, people flocked to union offices connected to the companies that took part in the initial days of the strike – a GM factory in Missouri, a Stellantis Jeep plant in Ohio, and a Ford site in Michigan – to sign up for picket duties and obtain placards to demonstrate.
Many politicians arrived on the scene, including Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who laughed at the bosses’ cautions about the financial consequences of fulfilling employee demands.
She referred to Jim Farley, the CEO of Ford, by saying, “He makes $20 million,” to the BBC. “Maybe he should take a pay cut if he’s worried about that.”
On Friday afternoon, Senator Bernie Sanders, a left-leaning Democratic candidate for president in 2016, was scheduled to speak at a UAW rally.
Trucks passing by honked their support for the striking Ford employees as they chanted “No deals, no wheels” outside the Michigan Ford plant.
Workers who took to the streets to demand salary raises and other reforms noted sacrifices made in 2009, when the companies were in dire financial straits, including skipping automatic pay increases based on inflation.
“We gave up our concessions with the understanding that when things got better… we would get our stuff back,” said longtime Ford employee Sandy Kirkland. “We’re now having to fight for it.”