GM manufacturing chief Gerald Johnson took an end run around UAW leaders by providing striking workers a detailed look at the company’s latest contract offer. “These are not poverty wages,” he stressed, noting many union employees will make over $100,000 before benefits. GM, Johnson stressed, simply can’t offer any more if it hopes to remain competitive.
With the United Auto Workers Union’s strike at the Detroit Big Three automakers now in its sixth week, General Motors’ manufacturing chief took the case for the carmaker’s latest contract offer directly to workers, outlining a proposal that would average more than $39 an hour and give “many” annual income of over $100,000.
“These are not poverty wages,” said Executive Vice President Gerald Johnson, adding that, along with benefits like medical care with no deductibles, the contract would put UAW members in the top 30% of all American workers, salaried or hourly, no matter their industry.
Effectively, the video presentation released by GM made it clear that the automaker has little, if anything, more to give. Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. made effectively the same point in a speech earlier this week.
“We…have met our commitment”
“We believe we have met our commitment to provide historic improvements in wages and benefits and have also addressed the future of EV battery manufacturing,” he said in a roughly 5-minute video presentation.
If that was the carrot, Johnson also pulled out the stick, warning that GM simply can’t afford to come up with any more if it hopes to remain competitive with the many foreign automakers, as well as Tesla, now operating plants in the United States. The alternative would result in cuts to product development, the loss of market share and likely job losses.
“The implication for jobs would be devastating and that’s not a reality we are willing to accept,” Johnson said in the presentation.
UAW points to record corporate profits
In laying out demands that included a more than 40% wage hike, UAW leaders have pointed to the record profits the Detroit manufacturers have made over the past decade. In GM’s case, that comes to $65 billion, Johnson acknowledged.
But he then noted that the automaker has invested $77 billion on products and plants over the same period, much of it to help fund its transition to electric vehicles.
What’s in the latest GM offer
While GM, Ford and Stellantis have offered some insights into their contract proposals over the past weeks, Johnson’s presentation offered to most detailed look yet. Among the details:
- The typical GM worker would earn $39.24 an hour by the end of the contract, equal to around $82,000 annually, and “many” would top $100,000 with overtime, bonuses and profit sharing;
- That averages 30 to 40% higher than what workers earn at non-union auto plants in the U.S.;
- *Workers will receive free health care, even covering 100% of “medically necessary hospital, surgical medical care” with no deductions. The average family coverage last year in the U.S. cost $22,000 before deductibles;
- GM will up its contribution to worker retirement funds to 8% without workers adding any funds. With the average UAW member contributing 8.7 of earnings, additional company matches would result in as much as $1 million or more in savings at the end of a 30-year career.
- The new contract would provide up to 5 weeks of annual vacation time, 2 weeks of family leave and between 17 and 20 paid holidays, depending upon the year.
The total compensation package, said Johnson, would be worth an annual $150,000.
Ford tried a similar approach
The UAW did not immediately respond to Johnson’s comments. But union president Shawn Fain responded angrily to a speech made by Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. earlier in the week.
Ford’s latest offer is “an incredible opportunity,” the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford said, adding that it would bring “growth an opportunity to everyone.”
“We need to come together to bring an end to this acrimonious round of talks,” the Ford chairman said, but a social media post by UAW Pres. Fain dismissed the automaker’s latest proposal.
An angry response
“It’s not the UAW and Ford against foreign automakers,” Fain stated. “It’s autoworkers everywhere against corporate greed.”
The strike that began at 11:59 PM on September 14 has followed an unprecedented route. Where the UAW in the past picked one automaker to focus on as the deadline approached, Fain chose to continue negotiating with all three Detroit manufacturers. And when the old contract expired, he launched a “stand-up strike” targeting just three plants, one for each of the carmakers.
Since then, the UAW has added dozens more facilities, most recently targeting the Ford assembly line in Louisville, Kentucky producing the highly profitable F-Series pickups. The UAW came close to walking out at GM’s big truck plant in Arlington, Texas last week but backed off when the carmaker made its latest offer.
About 34,000 UAW workers are now on strike. Thousands more have been laid off by the three automakers due to the impact of the stand-up strike.