UAW strikes shut down auto plants as negotiations continue

(Credit: UAW)

Ford, General Motors (GM) and Stellantis face continued negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union after around 13,000 workers shut down three manufacturing plants when previous contracts expired on Thursday.

The shutdowns could be costly for the so-called “Big 3” automakers if union demands are not met. Some say electric vehicle (EV) market leader Tesla could be set to win big from the damage amidst the Big 3’s attempts to transition to EVs.

UAW workers shut down the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant’s Final Assembly and Paint facilities, as detailed in a Detroit Free Press report on Sunday morning. The strikes also shut down the Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio and GM’s Assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri.

Following the walkouts, Ford CEO Jim Farley warned that the UAW’s demands could force bankruptcy, and the automaker also laid off 600 employees at its Michigan plant. GM says it plans to lay off around 2,000 workers at its Fairfax Assembly facility in Kansas City, Kansas this week due to an inability to get parts from the Wentzville plant, inevitably causing a production halt.

Tesla would be the big winner in potential UAW strike

While the UAW initially proposed a 40-percent wage increase over four years, based on compensation increases the automakers’ CEOs have received, the union lowered its demands to a 36-percent increase last week.

Still, negotiations remain far off. Ford and GM most recently offered 20-percent wage increases over the period, while Stellantis offered 21 percent.

In addition to wage increases over the four-year period, the UAW is demanding the automakers restore cost-of-living allowances (COLA) lost in a 2007 union contract, which are expected to help stave off the effects of inflation.

Demands also include moving to a 32-hour work week while retaining the pay for a 40-hour work week, the restoration of defined benefit pensions, increased paid time off, limited use of temporary workers, and reducing the time it takes for employees to make top wages.

UAW President Shawn Fain has used the wage demands as a comparison between worker and CEO pay increases. The UAW initially created the 40-percent wage increase figure based on compensation increases for the automakers’ CEOs since 2019. According to Fain, workers have only gained 6-percent wage increases during that time.

According to a breakdown from AP News in a Sunday morning report, median worker pay in 2022 was highest at GM at $80,034. In the same year, median worker pay at Ford and Stellantis landed at $74,691 and 64,328 euros (~$68,660), respectively.

AP News also reports that GM CEO Mary Barra is the highest-paid of the three executives, with her 2022 compensation package paying out $28.98 million. Her pay has increased by roughly 34 percent since 2019, according to an analysis by Equilar from public data filings.

Following her was Farley, who was paid almost $21 million by Ford through his compensation package in 2022, marking a 25 percent jump from former CEO William Clay Ford’s pay in 2019.

Stellantis is a European company, so the way its executive pay is made public differs slightly from GM or Ford’s. CEO Carlos Tavares was paid roughly 23.46 million euros ($25.04 million) in 2022, according to the automaker’s annual remuneration report. However, this figure includes “realized pay,” detailing previously granted equity values that vested the same year as reports are made.

Instead of using this figure, Equilar utilized a similar “grant date” method to make the comparisons more accurate. By this method, Equilar found Tavares’ compensation to be roughly 21.95 million euros ($23.43 million) last year, marking a 24-percent drop from former CEO Mike Manley’s 2019 compensation package of 29.04 million euros ($31 million).

Many CEOs get most of their compensation from stock options or other non-salary payment methods.

In 2022, the biggest payout in Barra’s compensation package was $14.62 million in stock grants, vested over three years. During the same year, Farley received $15.14 million in stock awards, which have a similar three-year vesting period with the final value being tied to performance.

Negotiations between the automakers and the UAW are expected to continue this week.

Amidst the strikes, EV manufacturer Tesla is set to launch deliveries of its Cybertruck and Model 3 Highland, and the automaker is also initiating a $1.8 billion lease securitization to gain additional funding.

Tesla prepares for $1.8 billion lease securitization: report

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UAW strikes shut down auto plants as negotiations continue
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