Auto workers reject 'insulting' counteroffer put forth by GM

Auto workers reject 'insulting' counteroffer put forth by GM
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash
selective focus photography of mechanics tool lot

The leader of the United Auto Workers on Thursday rejected General Motors' contract counteroffer as "insulting" and reminded the company that it is running out of time to avert a strike.

"After refusing to bargain in good faith for the past six weeks, only after having federal labor board charges filed against them, GM has come to the table with an insulting proposal that doesn't come close to an equitable agreement for America's autoworkers," UAW president Shawn Fain said in response to the counterproposal, which the company made public after meeting with union negotiators.

"GM either doesn't care or isn't listening when we say we need economic justice at GM by 11:59 pm on September 14th," Fain added. "The clock is ticking. Stop wasting our members' time. Tick tock."

GM's offer includes a 10% increase in wages for most employees—well short of UAW's call for a 46% wage boost.

If the UAW's proposed raise was implemented across the entire U.S. auto manufacturing sector, Bloomberg's Justin Fox noted Thursday, "it would bring real hourly wages back to... about 5% less than they were in mid-2003."

"The average hourly wage for autoworkers on the production line has dropped 30% since 2003," Fox observed.

General Motors also offered to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday, pay out a $5,500 contract ratification bonus, and reduce the amount of time it takes for employees to reach the maximum wage rate. UAW has demanded the complete elimination of tiered compensation systems that leave newer workers with worse pay and benefits, arguing that such arrangements are aimed at dividing the rank-and-file.

Late last month, 97% of participating UAW members voted to authorize a strike if the "Big Three" automakers—General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis—don't agree to a fair contract by September 14, when the union's current contracts with the companies are set to expire.

The union has since filed unfair labor practice charges against GM and Stellantis, accusing the companies of illegally refusing to bargain in good faith.

Ford made its counteroffer to the UAW last week, proposing a 9% wage increase. Fain said the company's offer "insults our very worth."

Stellantis, which is headquartered in the Netherlands, is expected to put forth its counteroffer to the UAW before the end of the week.

As Luis Feliz Leon wrote in The American Prospect on Thursday, Stellantis is using its U.S. plants as "bargaining chips" in high-stakes negotiations with the union.

"Last year, Stellantis indefinitely shuttered its assembly plant in Belvidere, laying off more than 1,300 workers," Leon noted. "It moved production to a plant in Toluca, in central Mexico, upending the lives of generations of families dating back to the company’s 1965 roots in Illinois."

One worker told Leon that Stellantis is "dangling that they can reopen the Belvidere plant if we give up this or that."

"And nobody wants to give up anything—we've given up enough!" the worker added.

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