United Auto Workers and Detroit Automakers at Impasse as Deadline for Strikes Nears

### Detroit Automakers and United Auto Workers Struggle to Make Progress in Contract Negotiations

As the deadline for expanded strikes by the United Auto Workers (UAW) against Detroit automakers approaches, it seems that the much-needed “serious progress” called for by the union is hard to achieve. General Motors, Ford Motor, and Stellantis, the three major automakers in Detroit, are holding their ground on demands, making it likely that the union will strike additional plants at some or all of the automakers starting at noon on Friday.

Despite ongoing talks, there has been little movement in proposals since the strikes began on September 15 at assembly plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri. Insiders familiar with the negotiations describe a significant gap in demands and a lack of agreement between the parties.

Key economic issues such as hourly pay, retirement benefits, cost-of-living adjustments, wage progression, and work-life balance remain at the center of the discussions. These issues are interconnected and can change based on the priorities of the demands.

Each automaker has its own unique issues, but overall, the companies want to avoid fixed costs and what they consider to be “uncompetitive practices” such as traditional pensions. On the other hand, the union is seeking to regain lost benefits from previous negotiations and secure substantial increases in pay and other benefits, while also maintaining platinum healthcare for its members.

Ultimately, the main concern is how much a potential deal will cost the companies. Wall Street predicts that a settlement will result in record costs, although still below the union’s demands of $6 billion to $8 billion, according to Wells Fargo.

Here is a general overview of where the union and companies currently stand on key issues:

#### Wages

The UAW has been transparent about its demand for a 40% wage increase over four and a half years. However, there have been reports indicating that the union has adjusted its demand to the mid-30% range. The automakers have countered with proposed wage increases of around 20% over the length of the contract, which would still be a record. Under these proposals, a majority of workers would earn over $39 per hour.

#### Tiers/’In-progression’/Temps

The issue of wage tiers, which categorize autoworkers into different pay ranges or classifications, is complex and subject to change. The companies and the union have different definitions of tiers, which can signify differences in pay and benefits for workers in similar roles or between assembly and component plants.

The UAW has called for equal pay for equal work, aiming to eliminate pay disparities and classifications based on seniority. The automakers have historically argued for pay based on seniority, job classification, and responsibilities.

#### COLA/Profit-sharing

The UAW wants to reinstate cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to help employees maintain the value of their compensation against inflation. The automakers have proposed lump-sum payments or calculations based on inflation levels, which the union believes would not be enough to offset increased costs. The companies argue that profit-sharing payments based on North American profits can help mitigate inflation.

#### 32-hour workweek

The UAW has proposed a 32-hour workweek for the pay of 40 hours to improve work-life balance. The automakers have not been receptive to this idea but have offered additional vacation time, added holiday pay, and two-week paternal leave in some cases.

#### Product

Product commitments from automakers are crucial for the UAW as they translate to job security and more union members. The UAW is particularly concerned about vehicle production commitments at Stellantis, which has proposed closing or consolidating several facilities.

#### Retirement benefits and savings

The UAW is demanding a significant increase in pay for retired workers, but the automakers have rejected these demands. GM has offered a lump-sum cash payment of $500 for retirees, while Ford has proposed a health-care retirement bonus program with lump sums based on seniority. The automakers are also reluctant to return to traditional pensions in favor of 401(k) plans.

Despite the challenges and differences in demands, the negotiations between the UAW and the Detroit automakers are ongoing. The outcome of these negotiations will have a significant impact on the future of the automotive industry and the lives of thousands of workers.

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