United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said he’s unmoved by an offer of a 21% pay raise from Stellantis NV as the strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers entered its third full day.
“It’s definitely a no-go,” Fain said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “We’ve made that very clear.”
Fain’s comments signal the union and Detroit executives are still far apart. Stellantis’ chief operating officer for North America said Saturday that he was “disappointed” the union rejected what the automaker considers a “compelling offer,” which included a “solution” to protect jobs at an idled Jeep plant in Illinois.
Workers at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri walked off the job on Friday in a partial strike that’s threatening billions in losses if it spreads to more plants. The union and the companies, which also include Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. are expected to resume negotiations on Monday.
The strike, which is rippling into the politics of the wealth-inequality discussion as the 2024 presidential race takes shape, comes amid a turbulent and costly transition to electric vehicles.
While the shift to EVs threatens to shrink auto employment and lower pay, Fain repeated in the interview that workers shouldn’t have to shoulder an unfair burden.
“Anyone that doesn’t believe global warming is happening isn’t paying attention,” Fain said. “But this transition has to be a just transition, and a just transition means if our tax dollars are going to finance this transition that labor can’t be left behind.”
President Joe Biden and Democratic politicians around the U.S. are rallying behind the union, seeking the support of its members as the campaign heats up. Biden would like the union’s endorsement — something Fain pointedly didn’t commit to.
“Our endorsements are going to be earned,” he said. “We expect action, not words.”
Representative Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, noted that her state is “competitive” going into the 2024 vote, and while she said presidential politics shouldn’t be a part of the negotiations, a union endorsement may hang on the results.
“When we get a good agreement that keeps America strong, keeps our workers strong, then I think that we know who they’re going to support,” she said on the CBS show. “They’re going to support someone that supports the American worker.”
The auto companies have taken a more public and aggressive media stance in this year’s negotiations to respond to Fain.
He’s been holding regular live online briefings for the roughly 150,000 union employees of the carmakers, laying out their proposals and accusing them of corporate greed.
The UAW’s three-pronged attack comes amid a resurgence of labor activism in the U.S. as workers, emboldened by tight labor markets and agitated by inflation, push for higher wages and better benefits.
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