Striking United Auto Workers (UAW) members at General Motors’ Lansing Delta plant demonstrate in Delta Township, Michigan, September 29, 2023.

Rebecca Cook | Reuters

DETROIT – The United Auto Workers union believes there is “more to gain” in ongoing contract negotiations with Detroit automakers after five weeks of strikes against the companies, UAW President Shawn Fain said Friday.

His comments come despite record contract offers from General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis, which now include a 23% increase in hourly wages and other significantly improved benefits over the life of the four-and-a-half-year contract.

“There is still more to gain,” Fain said during an online broadcast. “These are already record contracts, but they come at the end of decades of record declines. So it’s not enough to be the best ever when autoworkers have regressed over the past two decades. That’s a very low bar.”

Despite Fain’s comments, the union announced no further strikes against any of the companies on Friday. He said: “The bottom line is that we still have cards to play and they still have money to spend.”

Fain did not address a report from Bloomberg on Friday that the union had called for a 25% increase in general wages.

The union has not announced any further strikes since it launched an unexpected strike on Oct. 11 at the Ford truck plant in Kentucky, which makes highly profitable pickup trucks and SUVs. This is despite the fact that Ford has the best proposal in economic terms, as Fain explained on Friday.

Fain spent much time during the online broadcast discussing how the union plans to use these conversations to help organize non-union agendas. He also strongly criticized Ford Chairman Bill Ford’s comments on Monday about ending negotiations.

“Bill Ford said it shouldn’t be Ford v. UAW. He said it should be the UAW and Ford against foreign automakers,” Fain said. “I want to make one thing very clear: the days of the UAW and Ford being a team to fight other companies are over…Non-union auto workers are not the enemy. This is our future union family.”

Ford said it remained “committed to concluding these negotiations with a contract” that benefits its workers, citing that it was “good that Mr. Fain acknowledged that Ford’s contract offer is ‘already’ and remains a record.” before the best thing is on the table.”

Stellantis said the sites “continue to be productive and build on the momentum of recent weeks,” but declined to discuss specific details. GM declined to comment on Fain’s comments, citing details the company released earlier Friday about its latest offer.

The UAW has not expanded strikes at GM since Sept. 29 or at Stellantis since Sept. 22, although the offers made this week did not match the details of Ford’s proposal last week and Fain said last week the union would ” “new phase” initiate strikes and contract negotiations.

“Just before a deal, there is the most aggressive pressure on the last mile. They just want to wait,” Fain said. “They want division. They want fear. They want uncertainty. And what we have is our solidarity.”

The strike at Ford’s $25 billion Kentucky plant marked a significant escalation in the UAW’s targeted or “stand-up” strikes. It also represents a change in strategy, as Fain had already publicly announced the goals before the work stoppages.

The UAW has gradually expanded strikes since the walkouts began after the sides failed to reach a tentative agreement by September 14.

About 34,000 U.S. automaker companies, or about 23% of UAW members covered by expired contracts with the Detroit automakers, went on strike.

Here are details of the companies’ current proposals to the UAW:

  • Wages: All three automakers have offered a 23% pay increase over four and a half years.
  • Pay levels: All three automakers have agreed to eliminate wage scales at supplier factories, where workers have historically been paid less than assembly line workers.
  • Wage development: Ford offered a three-year promotion to top wages, a system that was in place from the mid-1990s until the fallout from the 2008 economic crisis. GM also offered three-year development, but only for current employees. GM wants a more gradual four-year progression for future hiring. Stellantis only offered four years of development.
  • Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA): Ford has offered to restore its COLA formula to the level last used in 2009, complying with the UAW’s request. Fain said GM is “closer to recovery but not quite there yet,” while Stellantis wants to delay cost-of-living adjustments for a year.
  • Occupational safety: Ford and Stellantis have agreed to give the union the right to strike over plant closures, a key demand of the UAW. GM has so far rejected this request.
  • Time employees: Ford has offered to convert current temporary employees with 90 days of service to full-time employees, with an increase to $21 per hour for remaining and future temporary employees. Whether these future temporary workers will automatically be converted into full-time employees is still being negotiated, said Fain. GM has proposed converting current and future temporary employees to full-time employees with one year of service and has paid Ford an hourly wage of $21 for the remaining and future temporary employees. Stellantis agreed to convert “thousands” of current temporary workers into full-time workers, with a wage increase to $20 an hour for remaining and future temporary workers. As with Ford, the automatic conversion of future temporary jobs is “still being negotiated,” said Fain.
  • Retirement provision: All three automakers have offered a $3 increase in pension benefits. Ford and Stellantis have offered to increase their 401(k) contributions to 9.5% plus $1 an hour. GM offered a raise to 8% plus $1.25 an hour.
  • Payments to retired employees: Ford offered retired workers flat-rate annual payments of $250, with surviving spouses still eligible to receive the payments. GM offered a one-time lump sum payment of $1,000, although surviving spouses were not eligible. Stellantis rejected all pension salary increases. Fain said all three offers were “deeply inadequate.”
  • Profit sharing: Ford offered to improve its existing profit-sharing formula by incorporating profits from Ford Credit, its financing subsidiary, and making temporary workers eligible for profit-sharing payments. Stellantis and GM both want to maintain their current profit-sharing formulas, but GM has offered to make temporary workers eligible for payments after 1,000 hours of service. Stellantis has not offered to entitle its temporary workers to profit-sharing payments.
  • Work-life balance: All three automakers have offered to make Juneteenth an official paid holiday and offered two weeks of paid parental leave.

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