UAW Urges Raise For Entry-Level Jobs. Who Didn’t See That Coming?
The United Automobile Workers union has asked the Detroit carmakers to increase wages for so-called second-tier workers, the U.A.W.’s president said Monday.
Starting pay for the second-tier workers, who are all recent hires, is currently about $14 an hour, roughly half of what other workers earn, even though many perform similar jobs.
“We’re very concerned about the entry-level member having a higher standard of living,” the U.A.W.’s president, Bob King, told reporters after speaking to the Detroit Economic Club.
Mr. King has previously said he is not looking to eliminate the second tier of workers because he believes that it helps create jobs that might otherwise be filled in other countries or at outside suppliers with lower wages. The carmakers say they need the two-tier wage system to be more competitive.
He declined to say how much of an increase the union is requesting or whether it is also seeking higher wages for full-wage employees. He said the union wants its workers – who have not gotten a pay increase in the last several contracts — to earn more money overall, whether that comes in the form of cost-of-living wage increases, profit-sharing bonuses or base wages.
His comments came as the contract talks, which formally started at the end of July, intensify ahead of the Sept. 14 contract expiration date.
Ford is the only one of the three Detroit carmakers whose workers are allowed to strike over pay and benefits. Workers at General Motors and Chrysler agreed, as a prerequisite to their government-sponsored bankruptcies, to a no-strike provision that remains in effect through 2015.
U.A.W. leaders have asked Ford workers to vote by this Friday whether to authorize a strike during the negotiations. The union typically conducts such a vote during negotiations as a formality but rarely has invoked that power. The last national strike against Ford was in 1976.
At a Ford plant in Kansas City, 3,049 workers voted in favor of authorizing a strike, with only 18 opposed, said Jeff Wright, the president of U.A.W. Local 249.
“I think it sends a pretty strong message,” Mr. Wright said of the vote. But as for whether a strike would actually take place, he said, “I would say it’s unlikely.”
In a letter to workers at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, which builds the Explorer sport-utility vehicle and Taurus sedan, leaders of U.A.W. Local 551 called the threat of a strike a “powerful negotiating tool.”
“Just knowing that it’s there and knowing that our vehicles are in higher demand than they’ve been for a long time should convince the company that we need to be properly compensated for our contribution to the success of Ford Motor Company,” the local officials wrote. “A strong yes vote can also help our brothers and sisters at G.M. and Chrysler.”
In past years, the talks have typically dragged on well past the contract’s expiration date, though top negotiators have suggested that this round of talks is proceeding faster than the usual pace. Source: Nick Bunkley, Bill Vlasic, NYT.