Automotive Union Seeks To Spread Representation

The six-week strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW) against the US’ Big 3 automakers—General Motors, Ford Motor, and Stellantis—has benefitted the manufacturers’ 145,000 union workers. They obtained wage gains of at least 25% for the next four years and cost-of-living increases tied to inflation. By the end of the agreement, in 2027, most workers will pocket $40 an hour. When profit-sharing and overtime are added in, average pay should exceed $100,000 a year. 

There is much more to the multiyear agreement than increased salaries, however—and the impact will extend beyond Detroit.

The UAW leadership, including Shawn Fain, the union’s new and combative president, know that the future is with electric vehicles. Carmakers are preparing the transition to electric batteries by creating joint ventures with foreign manufacturers—and jobs at these new companies were not previously expected to be covered by UAW contracts.

Fain has vowed to change that. “I don’t care if you build combustion engines or electric batteries,” he says. “These workers make these vehicles … and they will be recognized and compensated justly for it.” GM’s battery-cell operation in Lordstown, Ohio will be covered by the master agreement with the Big 3. Similar joint ventures organized by Ford and Stellantis will follow the same path.

The UAW is not limiting its agenda to the Big 3, either. Fain is already thinking about extending the union’s campaign to nonunion plants across the US, such as Tesla’s in California and Texas, and appealing to employees of foreign carmakers in the South: Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Nissan in Canton, Mississippi; and Mercedes-Benz in Alabama.

Previous efforts by UAW organizers in the South failed. But the union now has a significant victory under its belt. “When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big 3. It will be the Big 5 or Big 6,” Fain promises. Will the Solid South say yes, next time around? Stay tuned.