Tag Archive | "UAW"

Detroit Three, UAW Will Square Off Over Wages, U.S. Jobs

The Big Three U.S. automakers and the United Auto Workers union will kick off bargaining Monday for new contracts that would set how much more robust, post-recession profits the industry shares with workers, and determine union costs to win more U.S. jobs, reports Reuters.

UAW leaders said they will insist on raises for 139,000 blue-collar workers at U.S. plants run by Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles after rounds of bargaining in 2007 and 2011 that led to substantial concessions. Union leaders and chief executives of the Detroit Three are scheduled to stage public handshakes next week, starting Monday. Their current contracts expire Sept. 14.

Union President Dennis Williams has said he wants to narrow the gap between veteran workers, who make about $28 an hour, and employees hired since 2011 with a “second tier” hourly wage of $16 to $19.

Labor accounts for a declining share of a vehicle’s cost, said Sean McAlinden, chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research, noting that the three automakers’ costs for UAW members fell to 5.7 percent last year from 11.5 percent in 2007.

But executives at the Detroit Three said their ability to add more UAW jobs depends on offsetting increases in wages or benefits with gains in productivity. Health care costs promise to be a central issue, as the automakers face paying a so-called “Cadillac tax” of 40 percent on rich UAW medical plans starting in 2018.

John Fleming, head of Ford manufacturing, said the company expects to boost productivity by 6 to 7 percent in all its factories. “Every dollar that we don’t take out is a dollar that your competitor can spend on making their vehicles more competitive,” he said.

The automakers’ leverage is strengthened by the union’s failure to organize auto plants in the southern United States operated by Asian and European manufacturers, and by the growing capability of Mexican auto workers and suppliers to build cars for the U.S. market.

Ford jolted the union on Thursday by announcing plans to move production of its small Focus and C-max hybrid cars out of a factory in suburban Detroit by 2018. The company said the Wayne, Michigan, factory’s future would be a subject of bargaining in this round of talks.

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Ford Executive Indicates Desire for Level Playing Field on Labor Costs

Ford Motor Co’s Americas chief indicated on Wednesday that the No. 2 U.S. automaker will be looking to bring its labor costs in line with those of its smaller rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles when it opens talks this summer with the union representing its hourly workers, reported Reuters.

Joe Hinrichs, speaking at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference, said the subject of entry-level workers, who are paid less than their veteran co-workers, will be a subject of talks with the United Auto Workers. Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors Co will negotiate new deals to replace ones expiring in mid-September.

Hinrichs, who declined to discuss the pending talks in detail, said Ford needs to remain competitive in order to maintain its investment in U.S. plants, and pointed to the UAW’s desire for a deal that is similar at all three automakers in helping Ford lessen the advantages Fiat Chrysler gained during its 2009 bankruptcy.

As part of the bankruptcy reorganizations at GM and FCA, the UAW agreed to no cap on the number of entry-level workers those automakers could hire, while Ford, which did not enter bankruptcy, has a limit.

“Ideally, some of those discrepancies that exist because of the bankruptcies at two of our competitors will play themselves out as part of that pattern bargaining process,” said Hinrichs, who added the talks would be a “delicate balance.”

Asked what Hinrichs meant, a Ford spokeswoman said, “We need to have a total labor cost that is competitive with other automotive manufacturers producing in the U.S. We’re open to discussing many options with our UAW partners.”

Entry-level workers earn about $16 to $19 an hour compared with veteran workers, who make up to $28.50 an hour. Twenty-eight percent of Ford’s hourly U.S. workforce are entry level, while GM is at 19 percent and FCA is at 43 percent.

UAW leaders have said they want to bridge the gap between the entry-level and veteran workers’ pay.

Labor cost estimates show that Ford pays its workers an average of $57 an hour, including benefits, compared with $58 at GM and $48 at FCA, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

“There’s certainly an understanding that for the investment levels to continue and the great job growth numbers that we’ve had in the U.S. to continue, we have to maintain a level of competitiveness that makes sense,” Hinrichs said.

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Former UAW Vice President General Holiefield Dies

He was the number two man at the UAW, and responsible for spearheading some of the biggest negotiations during the auto industry’s bleak period of the late 2000s, reported MLive.

General Holiefield passed away at the age of 61 Monday after battling pancreatic cancer.

Holiefield retired from the UAW last year after twice being elected to four-year terms as vice president, the highest ranking spot in the UAW under the president.

He oversaw Chrysler, now FCA US, for the UAW, and was part of crucial negotiations in 2007 and 2011.

In 2011 negotiations, Holiefield said, “We know that if we continue to talk and continue to negotiate we will work our way through anything. After all, look where we’ve come from — I think the commercials on television have said it all, ‘we’ve come through Hell,’ and look where we’re at today.”

In addition to contract talks with the Detroit Three, Holiefield was involved in negotiations with Pres. Barack Obama’s automotive task force in 2009, and helped ensure that Chrysler received government aid instead of being liquidated, according to the Free Press.

“Under his leadership, General helped guide the Company through one of the most difficult periods in its history,” FCA president and CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. “As a result, Fiat Chrysler was able to provide a secure future for those who chose to stay and for the nearly 15,000 new UAW-represented employees that have joined the company since June 2009.

Holiefield’s career was marked by successfully landing higher wages and more jobs for UAW workers. He first joined the UAW about 40 years ago at Chrysler’s Jefferson assembly plant.

“We are saddened by reports of the passing of General Holiefield,” the UAW said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.”

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2015 Collective Bargaining Between UAW, Detroit Automakers to Feature New CEOs and Union Leaders

Detroit, MI – The 2015 collective bargaining negotiations between the UAW and Detroit automakers should have some intriguing story lines, reported Michigan Live.

Besides the numerous issues expected to be a part of the talks, including raises and two-tier wages, the negotiations next year will include two new CEOs, two new union vice presidents overseeing the Detroit Three and two female trailblazers.

Cindy Estrada, a second-term vice president, will lead negotiations with General Motors Co. and its new CEO Mary Barra. Estrada, 45, is the first Latina elected to serve as an International officer. Barra is the first female to lead a major automaker.

“I think what we’re going to see when the two sides sit down together, people have the interest of making sure GM is successful as well as making sure workers share in those successes,” said Estrada, who, like Barra, downplayed gender having any significance. “I think that if we look at both of those together, we can only have success.”

During Estrada’s first term, she oversaw the union’s independents, parts and suppliers/competitive shop department; public sector and health care servicing department, and women’s department.

Newly elected UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, who previously served as UAW Region 1C director (now Region 1D), will oversee Chrysler and lead negotiations with CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Jewell, a 56-year-old former GM worker, said he looks forward to helping lead the UAW with the new management team.

“I’m going to rely a lot upon the directors around the nation along with the vice presidents and Gary,” he said. “I know that the team Dennis has put together, there isn’t anything we can’t do.”

And Jimmy Settles, who was re-elected to his third term this week, will continue overseeing Ford Motor Co. But for the first time as vice president, Ford CEO Alan Mulally will not be at the bargaining table. The 68-year-old exec will retire effective July 1, and Ford COO Mark Fields will succeed him.

Settles, 64, said he expects little change between Mulally and Fields since the new CEO was involved with the previous round of collective bargaining as president of the Americas.

“I don’t see him as any different as dealing with Alan Mulally,” Settles said.

Williams and all the vice presidents were elected and sworn in earlier this week during the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Williams’ successor is Gary Casteel, who was a regional director of a 15-state region in the south. He will oversee UAW finances, transnational organizing and Mitsubishi Motors.

When announcing the assignments, newly elected UAW President Dennis Williams said he could have put the three vice presidents in any of the positions “and felt comfortable.”

“These were thought out strategically because of what we were facing,” he said. “It had nothing to do with the CEO. It was about these peoples’ experiences.”

Casteel, 56, and the vice presidents ran unopposed. Williams, who served as UAW secretary-treasurer for the past four years, won in a landslide victory Wednesday over Gary Walkowicz of Local 600 in Dearborn. Williams received 98.5 percent – 3,215.969 of 3,270 – of eligible votes.

Williams said he knows the next four years will be challenging, but he and his team are ready: “I couldn’t be more pleased with the team I have,” he said. “I couldn’t have thought of anybody else that could do what we’re about to do.”

Those challenges, he said, include rallying for a presidential election in 2016 and an important round of contract negotiations next year with the Detroit automakers.

During the last round of collective bargaining agreements with the Detroit automakers in 2011, UAW officials opted for the promise of jobs and profit-sharing checks rather than wage hikes. But now, judging by comments from Local delegates during the convention, members will push for raises and an end to the current two-tier wage system that started in 2007.

“We’re all committed to eliminating the two-tier wage system,” said Williams, using the term “bridge the gap” in society and membership to discuss the union’s challenges.

The majority of UAW members have not received a raise since 2005. Under the union’s current two-tier wage system, traditional workers – the majority of UAW members – make about $28 an hour. Entry-level UAW members start at $15.78 an hour and increase every 12 months up to $19.28 an hour.

Williams, as many leaders before him, also faces an uphill battle regarding so-called “right-to-work” laws and membership numbers. The UAW’s membership has significantly decreased over the last decades as factories become more automated and 24 states, including Michigan, have passed “right to work” laws that allow employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union.

Williams’ election comes a day after delegates approved a controversial monthly dues increase for its members. The increase – the first for the UAW since 1967 – raises monthly payments from two hours of pay per month to two and a half hours.

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UAW’s Williams: ‘No More Concessions’

Detroit — Newly elected United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams urged members Thursday to join the fight to “take back” the country that has been “handcuffed by extremists,” reported The Detroit News.

Williams, 61, elected Wednesday to replace outgoing president Bob King, also said its time for the union to stand up and accept no more concessions in negotiations with corporations.

But during his 30-minute speech in front of more than 1,000 elected union delegates, Williams did not specifically mention eliminating the controversial two-tier wage system — one of the top reasons many delegates said they voted for the former Marine.

The new UAW president addressed the subject during a press conference later in the afternoon, reiterating a previous statement that he wants to “bridge the gap” of the two-tier wage structure.

He also announced the assignments for his three vice presidents: Jimmy Settles will oversee Ford Motor Co. and aerospace; Norwood Jewell will negotiate with Chrysler Group LLC, General Dynamics and agriculture and heavy truck companies; and Cindy Estrada will head the team that bargains with General Motors Co., parts suppliers and independent companies. Estrada, who is the first Latina UAW vice president, downplayed the fact she will negotiate with GM, which is headed by the auto industry’s first female CEO, Mary Barra.

Gary Casteel, the newly-elected secretary-treasurer, will handle the union’s finances, transnational organizing, and Mitsubishi Motors. Casteel said Thursday he will continue to live in Tennessee to continue his focus on organizing auto plants in the south, including Volkswagen AG’s Chattanooga, Tenn., facility, which earlier this year the UAW narrowly lost out on organizing.

Williams, during his speech, sent a strong message to companies — including the Detroit automakers — that he will expect them to share more of their recent profit gains with union members.

“It’s time for each and every one of us to tell our corporations no more concessions,” he said. “We’re tired of this.”

“I don’t want anybody to misread what I’m saying; I want to work closely with the companies as long as it doesn’t hurt our members. I also want to tell them, I do not like confrontation, but I am not afraid of confrontation.”

Detroit automakers in 2007 pushed for the two-tier wage system as a way to cut costs.

Veteran workers make about $28 an hour, but newer workers, doing the same job have a starting wage about half that amount and their top hourly pay is capped at $19.

Chrysler and Fiat SpA CEO Sergio Marchionne has said he wants to end the two-tier wage structure, and recently said he wants to begin negotiating a new contract with the UAW this month — more than a year before the current contract with the union ends. But Williams said Thursday the union isn’t quite ready to sit down at the bargaining table.

Williams expressed the need for better communication within the union, something officials tried to improve on when discussing the recent union dues hike, which passed Tuesday. Union members in August will begin paying dues equal to two-and-a-half hours of monthly pay, up from two hours.

Union officials for more than six months floated the idea of the dues increase and visited local union shops to gather the opinions of members.

“How can we be good stewards of our union if we’re not communicating and educating?” Williams asked, adding that “if we can’t talk to our members about what we’re doing, perhaps we shouldn’t be doing it.”

Williams urged members to vote in upcoming elections — including Senate and House races and the presidential race in 2016.

“This country better be careful,” he said. “If we want to keep our freedoms, you have to fight for them.

“The great equalizer in this country is our vote.”

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UAW Elects New Union President; Dennis Williams Wins 98.5% of the Vote

Williams succeeds Bob King, who was well respected by members and automotive executives since his election in 2010.

Before being elected secretary-treasurer in 2010, Williams also served UAW Region 4 Director for nine years. Region 4 includes Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Williams’ election comes a day after delegates approved a controversial monthly dues increase for its members. The increase – the first for the UAW since 1967 – raises monthly payments from two hours of pay per month to two and a half hours.

There was not an official vote count. Following a somewhat close vocal “aye” versus “nay” vote, King called for a hand vote and declared that “the ayes certainly have it.”

According to the UAW, the increase represents an additional $10 per month for the average member and generates an additional $45 million per year, all of which goes to the strike fund, which was renamed by delegates as the International Union Strike and Defense Fund.

As of last year, the strike fund was at almost $627 million. It was once at more than $1 billion, which King said he would like to see again. According to UAW documents, the strike fund had a year-end high of more than $914 million in 2005. Since then, it has decreased on average about $287 million a year.

The 36th UAW Constitutional Convention, held every four years, started Monday morning. It continues through Thursday at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Williams is expected to give his inaugural address as president Thursday during the convention.

Gary Casteel, who ran unopposed, was elected by acclimation to replace Williams as Secretary-Treasurer.

Other elections included the re-elections of vice presidents Cynthia Estrada and Jimmy Settles and Norwood Jewell of UAW Region 1C (now Region 1D) replacing General Holiefield as the third vice president. The vice presidents ran unopposed and were elected by acclimation.

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