The words that Shaw Fain spoke at midnight and that framed a moment for the annals of the United States. “The money is there. The cause is just and the world is watching. The United Auto Workers are ready to fight.”
Thus, in an online broadcast, the president of the UAW, the automobile industry workers union, noted that historic moment. “This is our defining moment,” he added. Never before, in the 88 years of existence of this organization, have the employees of the three large companies of Detroit, the so-called Big Three of automobiles composed of Ford, General Motors (GM) and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) gone on strike together , something never seen in the US, to demand a salary improvement.
The starting point occurred at zero hours this Friday, once the contract in force until Thursday expired.
This pressure measure, which caused the Dow Jones index to fall into the red, has been reached after salaries became obsolete in recent years, following the rescue of the industry by the Government due to the great recession and, above all, in comparison to the record profits that these firms achieve today.
The UAW is demanding a 36% to 40% increase in its payroll over the next four years. It is not a crazy figure, but rather it is in line with the increase in the remuneration of its managers, although there is a difference of several zeros between them. GM CEO Mary Barra defended her pay of $29 million in 2022, a 34% increase from four years ago. Barra argued that 92% of her compensation consists of company stock that fluctuates depending on financials and is therefore not a “pure” salary.
His argument caused outrage among employees, who are not leading a wild protest. It is selective and has set objectives. They have stopped 12,700 employees out of a total of 150,000 workers. It affects three plants: Ford's Wayne (Michigan); GM's Wantzville, Missouri; and Toledo (Ohio), from Stellantis. Fain warned that it is the beginning and that the strike will spread like an oil spill if there is no agreement.
President Joe Biden, defender of unions, appeared to urge negotiation and make something clear. “Car companies have seen record profits because of the sacrifices of workers,” he said. “These benefits, in my view, have not been shared fairly with employees,” he added.