UAW

Pobrecito33 / Flickr

United Auto Workers President Bob King says the relationship between the union and Detroit car companies has dramatically improved.  That could help the two sides reach an agreement more quickly in ongoing contract talks.  And King hopes it will help him sell the value of his union to foreign auto companies in the U.S.

The UAW is a third the size if was in 1979 mostly due to the downsizing of the Detroit Three.  Future hiring by Detroit car companies will likely be modest.  So the UAW wants to unionize foreign auto companies in the U.S. 

Union President Bob King says most of the companies have agreed to meet with his group.  He says the union needs to overcome strong anti-union sentiment, and convince the companies that the new UAW wants to help them be profitable.

“Probably the biggest question in their mind is, is this for real, is this a passing fancy with the UAW or is this for real?”

Prolonged and contentious contract talks could throw a monkey wrench in the unions’ plans to try to unionize a foreign automaker.  But King and Detroit automakers say they’re negotiating in a spirit of cooperation.

Screenshot from UAW website / www.uaw.org

Once again Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry unleashes his knowledge of Michigan history. This time we get a historical perspective about negotiations between the United Auto Workers and Detroit automakers.

Contract talks have already started between the UAW and General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. But these talks are a little different this time around.

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration and state employee unions have begun a new round of contract negotiations.

The Snyder administration has set a big savings target -- $265 million - or an average of about $6,000 per state worker.

Jan Winter is the governor’s lead negotiator. She says saving $265 million in employee costs will be tough.

“Go the table, work as hard as you can. A lot of things can happen and we’re counting on working out good deals here.”

Winter says one idea is to ask state employees to pay more for their benefits.

“One of the things that we have looked at, clearly, moving to something like an 80/20 split on a health plan would mean well over $100 million in gross savings. We have a lot of ideas, and we’re hopeful the unions have lots of ideas, too.”

Cindy Estrada is the lead negotiator for UAW Local Six Thousand, the biggest state employee union.

She says workers are also looking to fix the state’s budget troubles.

“We want to create a Michigan, a state that in 10 years to come is more efficient, has better quality for the citizens that receive those services, and I think we can do that – if workers and management get together and we look for new solutions and we be really creative and stick to the commitment that we’re going to make structural changes, we can get there, definitely.

But Estrada says the savings should not come out of state employees’ benefits or paychecks since they’ve given up nearly $4 billion in concessions over the past decade.

The unions say state government could find big savings if it reduced the number of managers and outside contracts.

Most of us understand that the auto industry isn’t what it used to be. Especially, what we think of as the domestic auto industry. For one thing, it is much smaller, both in terms of market share and in number of people employed. Some time ago, the national media stopped using the term “the big three.“

Now, they mostly call them the “Detroit Three.” Technically, it would be more accurate to say, “the Detroit Two, and the Detroit-based subsidiary of an Italian firm.”  And one of the two, aka General Motors, sells more Buicks in China nowadays than in America.

UAW

The United Auto Workers formally kicked off negotiations today with Detroit automakers.

Current UAW contracts with Chrysler, GM, and Ford expire in mid-September.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports that Chrysler Group LLC management and the UAW emphasized unity at the press event today:

Scott Garberding is a Senior Vice President for Chrysler. He says the company and the UAW worked together to get Chrysler through bankruptcy. Garberding says it’s important for the new contract to recognize the sacrifices Chrysler workers have made.

"And at the same time, establishing a legacy for our organization to ensure that we remain competitive long-term. And I can’t think of a better team that could collectively come together and craft that type of arrangement. "

Last week, UAW President Bob King said he wanted workers to see the benefits of increased profit sharing. The UAW is also expected to seek wage increases for entry-level workers, and job guarantees. After huge layoffs, King said remaining workers want to count on their jobs:

“They want stability,” he said. “They want to know they’ll be working next week and next year, and that they will be able to send their kids to college.”

Talks are expected to take at least a month, and if things don't go well in negotiations with Chrysler and GM, the UAW is compelled to enter into binding arbitration. The UAW cannot strike under the terms of the government bailouts:

This year, for the first time, the UAW is bound by an agreement that it reached with Chrysler and General Motors in 2009 that requires the two sides to enter into binding arbitration if they reach an impasse.

King said Chrysler and the UAW have formed a committee to set up the ground rules for arbitration, even though he said that is a last resort.

“If arbitration happens … then I would say we haven’t done our job,” King said.

The UAW can, however, strike against Ford Motor Company. Analysts are curious to see if UAW negotiators are able to secure better terms with Ford.

Ford Motor Company

DETROIT (AP) - The head of the United Auto Workers union says if his members agree to profit-sharing instead of pay raises from Detroit's automakers, the companies will have to write bigger checks than they do now.

UAW workers at General Motors got $4,300 profit-sharing checks this year, while Ford paid out $5,000 and Chrysler paid $750.

President Bob King has told The Associated Press that profit-sharing or other flexible methods of compensation will be discussed when the union formally begins contract talks with the Big Three next week.

Yet King, who has preached cooperation with the companies over confrontation, said that while he wants workers to be fairly compensated, he also wants deals that keep down the companies' fixed costs so they are competitive with foreign-based automakers.

The United Auto Workers is hosting an important, unpublicized meeting about CAFE standards today at Solidarity House in Detroit.  

CAFE governs car fuel efficiency in the U.S.

The meeting could help the government decide how fuel efficient cars must be by the year 2025. 

The UAW, Detroit car companies, the federal government, and environmental groups will likely try to reach a compromise on future CAFE requirements, somewhere between a 47 and 62 miles per gallon average.    

Later this month, contact talks are set to begin between the United Auto Workers’ union and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

There’s a temptation to feel nostalgic about that. This has been a time-honored tradition in Detroit since the 1940s. Every three years, negotiations began, and the union selected a strike target.

That target could have been any one of what were then referred to as the Big Three. Negotiations followed a system called “pattern bargaining,” which meant the union and the selected company would battle things out to a settlement.

Sometimes a deal could be reached without a strike; sometimes not. Once a deal was reached, the other two automakers would settle with the union on essentially the same terms.

During the glorious fat years of postwar prosperity, the bargaining scenario also followed a predictable pattern.  When negotiations began, the company would offer the union the equivalent of a crust of bread. The union would demand the moon, plus a kitchen sink with gold-plated handles. Eventually, with or without a strike, they’d reach a deal where the union got the moon, but had to settle for a sink with plain old chromium handles.

Walter Reuther would then promise to get the gold-plated ones in the next contract, and he usually would. But everything is different now. Chrysler and GM went through a near-death experience two years ago. As part of the price for the federal government’s saving them, the UAW had to agree not to strike either company.

The only thing they can do in the case of a grievance is ask for binding arbitration. The union could theoretically strike Ford, but now that all automakers aren’t on an equal playing field that’s unlikely.

But the UAW does face two immense new challenges.

Seventy years ago, Ford Motor Company recognized the UAW.  Ford was the last major automaker to recognize the union, and that decision marked the starting point of the union’s “Golden Age.”

In this interview, Michigan Radio's Jenn White talks with Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio’s political analyst about unions past and present. And what lessons can be learned from those "golden years."

In 1941, the UAW signed contracts with General Motors and Chrysler, but Henry Ford remained opposed to unionization. After several days of strikes Ford gave in and soon after the first contracts took effect.

Rise in UAW membership

Apr 1, 2011
Pobrecito33 / Flickr

The United Auto Workers union is gaining members again after years of declines, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

In a filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, the union said Thursday that it had 376,612 members in 2010, up 6 percent from 355,191 in 2009. That's the first time since 2004 that the union has gained members.

UAW President Bob King said the growth was due to more hiring in the auto industry as it recovered from the recession. The union also has had some success organizing workers outside the auto industry, such as graduate students and casino dealers.

The peak of membership was in 1979 with 1.5 million union members.

You may not have noticed, but the United Auto Workers union has been holding its bargaining convention in Detroit this week.

Every four years, union leaders get together to plan and map out their strategy for negotiating a new contract with the automakers. Once, this convention was an enormous deal, intensely covered by both local and national labor media.

The big question every time was - which company would be the strike target?

Years ago, the union came up with the concept of “pattern bargaining.”  One company - Ford, General Motors, or Chrysler, would be selected as the target. Union officials would then try and hammer out a contact with that automaker first.

Sometimes they’d have to go on strike to achieve that; sometimes not. Meanwhile, the workers at the other companies would keep working under the old labor agreements.

Once the new contract was finally hammered out, the unions would then go to the other two automakers and say -- “okay; this is what we negotiated with them; this is what you need to agree to as well.  No fooling around; take it or leave it; sign or we walk.”

That’s how it’s been done for many, many years. In the past, there were sometimes historic strikes which led to historic settlements that gradually won the workers everything from paid vacations to profit sharing to dental care, on top of high wages.

But as all the world knows, excesses and globalization caught up with the auto companies. General Motors and Chrysler nearly went out of business less than two years ago. They survived in part because the union was willing to make major concessions.

New hires, for example, now make half of what a longtime autoworker  does -- $14 an hour, or $29,000 a year. The union decided that and other sacrifices were  necessary to keep their employers alive.

Well, the world is different now. Ford and General Motors are now making profits in the billions. Chrysler is believed close to profitability, and at any rate, has a new owner with deep pockets.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

UAW leaders say battle could lie ahead in contract negotiations

After giving into concessions during the auto industry's restructuring, union leaders are saying they want some things restored. From the Detroit Free Press:

As the UAW prepares to head into labor talks this summer with the newly profitable Detroit automakers, several top union leaders say a showdown is brewing over this year's contract -- especially at Ford, which has made $9.3 billion over the past two years.

"If they don't restore everything (we) gave up, the membership is going to knock it down," said Bill Johnson, plant chairman for UAW Local 900, which represents workers at the Focus plant in Wayne. "The bonuses that were just announced are just ridiculous."

Snyder to go over local government revenue sharing plan this morning

Governor Rick Snyder will go over his plan for revenue sharing with local governments at a 9:30 a.m. press conference in Grand Rapids.

His budget calls for a $100 million cut in revenue sharing with local governments, and, according to the Detroit News "would make local governments compete for the remaining $200 million, based on their adoption of "best practices" Snyder sets out today."

The Governor is expected to go over plans for local school districts as well today. From the Detroit News:

For school districts, Snyder's budget proposed a cut of about $300 per-pupil on top of an already announced $170 per-pupil cut.

Snyder told school districts in his budget message that for fiscal year 2013 he would set aside $300 million and make it "available to eligible school districts whose employees' share of health insurance costs is comparable to that of state employees."

Details on how that works are also to be announced today.

 

Michigan men's teams out of the tournament, women play on

The University of Michigan men's basketball team lost a close one to defending national champion Duke yesterday. Tim Hardaway Jr. pulled the team close when he hit three baskets down the stretch. Michigan was 2 points away from overtime when Darius Morris' floating jump shot in the lane missed, hitting the back of the rim. Morris said he thought the shot was going in - from the Detroit Free Press:

"I thought it was down," Morris said in the locker room, breathing heavy, trying to compose himself after postgame tears. "I thought we were going to overtime."

The University of Michigan was the last Michigan men's basketball team standing in NCAA tournament, Oakland University and Michigan State University lost close games in the opening rounds.

In the women's NCAA tournament, Michigan State University advanced by beating Northern Iowa yesterday, they'll play Green Bay tomorrow night.

(courtesy of the Michigan governor's office)

Governor Rick Snyder says he respects the views of people protesting against his budget proposals. Many people have crowded the Capitol lawn this week to stand against Snyder’s plan to tax pensions. The governor says he understands their frustration, but he says a tax on pensions – done the right way – is only fair.

Pobrecito33 / Flickr

The fight over workers’ rights in Wisconsin and Ohio has become familiar fodder for news stories in recent days. But labor leaders in this state say Republicans in Michigan are just as hostile to unions.

UAW President Bob King says you need look no further than Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal to see an attack on workers, seniors and the poor.

King says Snyder’s proposal to eliminate an income tax credit for the working poor, to cut the child care subsidy for low-income families, and to tax pensions are key examples.

"This governor has talked nicely, but these actions suggest he’s same agenda with every other Republican across this country," King said at a press conference today.

King says Snyder has also made some anti-union moves.

He says the Snyder administration is undermining bargaining rights for home health and day care workers. And Snyder supports legislation that would allow emergency financial managers to set aside union contracts, and suspend collective bargaining in troubled cities and school districts.

General Motors factory workers will get a record amount in profit-sharing checks this year.  The automaker's 48,000 UAW hourly workers will get at least $4,000.  That's more than twice the company's previous record for hourly worker profit-sharing  - $1,775 in 1999.

UAW members head to D.C.

Jan 17, 2011
Ray Holman of UAW Local 6000 says the ruling is a victory for state employees.
UAW

Members of the United Auto Workers union will be on Capitol Hill today in Washington, D.C.. Some 1,000 union members will be there for a four-day legislative meeting.  As the Associate Press reports:

They'll be hearing from UAW President Bob King on Monday on the start of the four-day conference. The Detroit News says King plans to talk about efforts to persuade non-U.S. automakers to make it easier to unionize their U.S. plants.

In a statement, the UAW said, those at the meeting will:

...discuss the union's legislative and political priorities for the coming year, meet with members of Congress to advocate on behalf of working families and prepare for the union's 2012 electoral campaign.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to speak at the conference.

General Motors formally announced today that it is investing more than 160 million dollars in plants in Flint, Bay City and in Defiance, Ohio.


 The three plants produce components for the Chevy Volt, Cruze and a third unnamed Chevrolet small car.


 Bill Jordan says GM’s announcement is an early "Christmas present.”   Jordan is the president of United Auto Workers local 599.    He says GM’s investment shows workers are doing the job right. 

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