UAW Dismisses Ford Offer, Says Automakers Must ‘Get Real’

The union files unfair labor practice complaints against General Motors and Stellantis with less than two weeks before its national contracts with the Detroit Three expire.

Joseph Szczesny

September 1, 2023

5 Min Read
UAW practice picket Louisville KY
UAW members hold “practice picket” as contract talks with Detroit 3 continue.UAW

UAW President Shawn Fain is brushing aside Ford’s offer of a 9% pay increase, saying the company’s contract proposal requires concessions and does nothing to address key union demands on pensions, temporary workers and wage tiers.

At the same time, the UAW has filed unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board against General Motors and Stellantis, stating neither manufacturer has made a serious contract offer since the talks opened in July.

“I still believe there is time” before the contracts for 146,000 union members expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14, but the companies must “get real” with their proposals, Fain tells union members during a live appearance on Facebook. “The Big Three have a simple playbook when it comes to bargaining, that can be summed up in three words: delay, delay and delay,” he says.

Full-time permanent Ford employees at the top wage rate could be paid $98,000 – from wages, cost-of-living adjustment bonus, ratification bonus, profit sharing and overtime – in the first year alone, according to Ford CEO Jim Farley.

“Overall, this offer is significantly better than what we estimate workers earn at Tesla and foreign automakers operating in the U.S.,” Farley says in a statement. Estimates are the UAW’s demands could raise labor costs for each automaker by as much as $80 billion over the four years of the contract.

“This would be an important deal for our workers, and it would allow for the continuation of Ford’s unique position as the most American automaker – and give us the flexibility we need within our manufacturing footprint to respond to customer demand as the industry transforms. This offer would also allow Ford to compete, invest in new products, grow and share that future success with our employees through profit sharing,” Farley says.

“We are committed to creating opportunity for every UAW worker to build a great career at Ford and to become a full-time permanent Ford employee with the good middle-class wages and benefits that come with it. Our offer fully eliminates wage tiers so all employees can achieve industry-leading wages, accelerates the grow-in period to reach the top wage rate by 25%, delivers a 20% raise for temporary employees and extends to temporary employees the same ratification bonus that permanent employees receive,” Farley adds.

The CEO, however, warns Ford “will not make a deal that would mortgage our future and would be harmful to everyone with a stake in Ford, including our valued UAW workers.”

UAW Shawn Fain.jpg

UAW Shawn Fain

Fain says Ford’s proposal does not address key union concerns. Wage tiers would remain in place for an additional six years under Ford’s proposal and continue to divide workers. The UAW’s proposal that new workers reach top wages in 90 days remains one of the union’s top demands.

While offering to pay temporary workers more, Ford temps would receive only 60% of the company’s fulltime base wage, says Fain, who punctuated his combative, sometimes-profane remarks by tossing the company proposal into a wastebasket.

As written, Ford’s proposal could turn all the company’s hourly employees into temporary workers eventually, the UAW president says.

At the same time, Ford, in a move Fain labeled as a demand for additional concessions, is proposing to cut profit sharing for hourly employees by 21% while the company is boosting dividends to shareholders 150% and raising executive compensation 40%.

Fain adds Ford, which is building a new complex for assembling electric vehicles in Tennessee, is making no effort to ensure EV and battery manufacturing is maintained under the UAW’s labor agreements. Instead, Ford is producing EV powertrains in joint venture plants with non-union partners, he says.

“We have to make sure we don’t replace oil barons with battery barons,” Fain says.

The union also is demanding an end to the “economic terrorism” of plant closings, which destroy communities and upend the lives of workers struggling to make ends meet and living paycheck to paycheck, Fain says. He cites the case of a fourth-generation Ford employee who has yet to reach the top wage of $32 per hour despite working 15 years for the automaker.

The unfair labor practices charges aimed at GM and Stellantis follow both companies’ failures to offer meaningful contract proposals, union officials contend. But the charges prompted a sharp response from both automakers.

Gerald Johnson, GM executive vice president, says: “We are surprised by and strongly refute the NLRB charge filed by the International UAW. We believe it has no merit and is an insult to the bargaining committees. We have been hyper-focused on negotiating directly and in good faith with the UAW and are making progress.”

The pace of negotiations is based on how quickly both parties resolve nearly 1,000 UAW demands, including more than 90 presented this week, Johnson says. “Our goal remains the same – to achieve an agreement without a disruption that rewards our team members and protects the future of the entire GM team,” he says.

In a statement, Stellantis says it is “shocked by Mr. Fain’s claims that we have not bargained in good faith. This is a claim with no basis in fact, and we are disappointed to learn that Mr. Fain is more focused on filing frivolous legal charges than on actual bargaining.

“We will vigorously defend this charge when the time comes, but right now we are more focused on continuing to bargain in good faith for a new agreement. We will not allow Mr. Fain’s tactics to distract us from that important work to secure the future for our employees.”

Ford is the official strike target for Unifor, the union representing 18,000 auto workers in Canada.

U.S. workers at Ford, GM and Stellantis voted overwhelmingly last month to authorize strikes if new contracts are not reached by Sept. 14. But the UAW has yet to designate its target as Fain continues to challenge the automakers to come up with contract proposals satisfactory to the union.

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