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Tue, May

UAW Files Charges Against Big Automakers, Alleging 'Willful Refusal to Bargain'

VOICES

LABOR WATCH - The United Auto Workers filed unfair labor practice charges against General Motors and Stellantis on Thursday, accusing the major carmakers of illegally refusing to bargain in good faith as the union seeks substantial wage increases and benefit improvements.

UAW president Shawn Fain announced the charges during a livestream late Thursday, just two weeks before the union's contracts with GM, Stellantis, and Ford—the so-called "Big Three" automakers—are set to expire.

"I'm sad to report that the Big Three are either not listening, or they are not taking us seriously," said Fain, who noted that he directly warned the automakers' CEOs not to drag out contract talks with the goal of forcing the union to swallow a milquetoast contract at the last minute.

The UAW outlined its demands—which include a 46% wage increase over four years, more paid time off, and the elimination of tiers that leave newer workers with paltry pay and benefits—a month ago.

"Both General Motors and Stellantis have failed to give us any economic counters," Fain said Thursday. "GM and Stellantis' willful refusal to bargain in good faith is not only insulting and counterproductive, it's also illegal. That's why today our union filed unfair labor practice charges, or ULPs, against both GM and Stellantis with the National Labor Relations Board."

But Fain stressed that the union's "strongest line of defense" against the automakers' obstruction and union-busting is "our ability to take collective action."

"Our goal is not to strike. Our goal is to bargain a fair contract," said Fain, who was elected as UAW's president earlier this year. "But if we have to strike to win economic and social justice, then we will."

GM and Stellantis dismissed Fain's allegations of law-breaking as "frivolous" and without merit.

"You can't make $21 billion in profits in half a year and expect members to take a mediocre contract."

Fain's announcement of ULP charges against the two of the Big Three automakers came as Ford countered UAW's offer with a proposed 9% wage increase over four years as well as "a reduction of the time it takes workers to reach the top of the wage scale from eight to six years, elimination of wage tiers, a 20% starting wage increase for temporary workers to $20 per hour, $5,500 ratification bonuses, and $12,000 over four years in what the company calls a "cost-of-living adjustment bonus," The Detroit Newsreported.

One worker at Ford's Cleveland Engine Plant told the newspaper that the company's counter is "nothing short of a slap in the face."

"We have plenty of temps here making $16.70 an hour, and they're barely getting by—$20, that isn't much better," the worker said. "Ford has a long way to go if they want to get our members' support on a contract."

Fain said Thursday that "Ford's wage proposals not only fail to meet our needs, it insults our very worth."

Last week, the UAW announced that 97% of participating members at General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis voted to authorize a strike if an adequate contract deal with management isn't reached by September 14. According to a Gallup pollreleased earlier this week, 75% of the U.S. public sides with UAW members over Big Three management in the contract negotiations.

"I know our demands are ambitious, but I've told the companies repeatedly, I'm not the reason that members' expectations are so high," Fain said Thursday. "What's driving members' expectations are the Big Three's profits. You can't make $21 billion in profits in half a year and expect members to take a mediocre contract."

(Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was first published.)