Warning to UAW: Don't Kill 'the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg'

In 'NYT' op-ed, Steven Rattner worries about strike's 'implications for our economy,' and for Biden
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2023 10:35 AM CDT
UAW Has 'Legitimate Concerns,' but It's Asking for Too Much
A United Auto Workers member leads a chant at a rally in Detroit on Friday.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The United Auto Workers union is threatening to expand its targeted strike against Detroit's Big Three automakers if major advances aren't seen in contract negotiations by Friday. But at least one person thinks that the UAW is "overplaying its hand" in taking on Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis: Steven Rattner, a former counselor to the Treasury secretary in the Obama years. In his op-ed for the New York Times, Rattner acknowledges that the strike seems to have wide public support, and he himself thinks the auto workers deserve better pay and to have their "legitimate concerns" addressed. He also points out the automakers boasted $37 billion in profits in 2022. At the same time, Rattner thinks the UAW's laundry list of demands is simply too much—demands he says the automakers won't be able to meet, leading him to worry about "the implications for our economy and for President Biden."

Rattner notes that an extended strike could mean bad news in terms of economic recovery, especially in Michigan—a swing state that's much needed for Biden's plan to win reelection in 2024. Rattner also concedes that an increase in worker wages is overdue, as the average has remained flat for 30 years. But "in their zeal, they are asking for too much," Rattner writes, detailing not only a request to raise pay, but also for a 32-hour workweek (but with pay for 40 hours) and company-paid medical benefits for retirees, among other asks. "I know the automakers won't give all of this. Because they can't," Rattner notes. "Or if they do, the workers are likely to pay the ultimate price." In short, while he supports unions' role in "redressing imbalances between owners and workers," Rattner also warns, "We need to be careful about killing the goose that lays the golden egg." Read his piece in full here. (More UAW stories.)

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