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The chief executive of the largest U.S. automaker criticized the autoworkers union on Friday after its leadership rejected the Detroit automakers’ latest offer and sparked a strike to secure a better deal.
Thousands of United Auto Workers members walked out of three plants at midnight after their contracts expired, greeted by cheers from their union colleagues and supporters. The factories – a Ford plant in Michigan, a General Motors plant in Missouri and a Stellantis plant in Ohio – produce trucks and sport utility vehicles, which are popular products.
“I am extremely frustrated and disappointed,” GM CEO Mary Barra told CNBC. “We don’t have to go on strike now. We have put a historic offer on the table.”
Bara added that “every negotiation takes on the personality of the leader,” a reference to Shawn Fain, who won the UAW presidency and promised a more aggressive stance against automakers.
The UAW is demanding a wage increase to 36 percent over four years, while automakers are offering no more than 20 percent. The union also wants to end the two-tier wage system, which takes new workers four years to earn the same pay as long-time workers, which automakers have opposed.
The strike, already unprecedented and hitting all three major automakers simultaneously, could spread to more factories and distribution centers depending on how the union performs at the bargaining table. The UAW called it the “Stand Up Strike,” a reference to the 1930s sit-down strike that helped build the nascent union and the larger U.S. labor movement.
“If we have to give it our all, we will,” Fain said Thursday. “Everything is on the table.”
The strike is a political headache for Joe Biden, who has described himself as the most pro-union US president in recent memory and is now torn between his desire to support workers’ demands and fear of economic fallout in the politically important industry Middle West.
On Friday morning, the White House said Biden would discuss treaty negotiations later in the day.
Meanwhile, many Democrats in Congress sided with the UAW in its conflict with U.S. automakers. Elissa Slotkin, a moderate Democratic congresswoman from Michigan who is running for an open Senate seat next year, said she would join the picket line this weekend.
“Over the last two years, we have passed bills to incentivize American manufacturing and move supply chains home from countries like China,” she said. “But the companies that benefit from this policy must do right by the workers who make their success possible.”
Some Republicans also expressed sympathy for the striking workers. “We stand with our nation’s autoworkers as they demand higher wages and an end to the political leadership’s green war against their industry,” JD Vance, a Republican senator from Ohio who is close to former President Donald Trump, wrote on social media Media.
Barra also appeared on CNN on Friday, where she defended her salary, which she said was tied to the company’s performance. The UAW responded to Barra’s appearance on social media: “During the eight and a half minutes [Barra] appeared on CNN this morning, she “earns” more money than any autoworker makes in a full day of work. And that’s how the Big Three want to keep it.”
Source : www.ft.com