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United Auto Workers conference focuses on closing wage gap

Mar 24, 2015

UAW president Dennis Williams kicks off the 2015 convention
Credit Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The United Auto Workers is taking a big step this week to prepare for upcoming contract talks with automakers. Hundreds of delegates from more than 800 locals are meeting with top union leaders at Cobo Center for the UAW Special Convention on Collective Bargaining.

Reporter Brent Snavely is covering the convention for the Detroit Free Press. 

"As we expected, really, the number one thing on the agenda of many delegates today is the idea that they would like the leadership of the UAW to push for the elimination of the second-tier wage, or the entry-level wage, that automakers have," Snavely says.

But this gap isn't the only problem, and Snavely says executive compensation has been on the minds of many as well.

While the UAW wants wage increases, automakers will be arguing against it, citing the already lower pay of international competitors with plants in the U.S.

UAW members at the 2015 convention
Credit Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

"The automakers do not want to return to those days of irresponsible contracts that led to as much as a $30 gap between the labor cost of the Detroit automakers and their Asian rivals in the U.S.," Snavely says.

"I don't think there's a right or wrong here. I understand where the UAW is coming from and I completely understand where the management of the companies are coming from and where they wind up, probably somewhere in the middle, is always a really fascinating dance to watch how it plays out," Snavely says.