Strike a 'Victory for Autoworkers,' Not Necessarily for Consumers

Car prices could jump more than $1K to pay for new labor costs, one auto expert says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 31, 2023 8:39 AM CDT
UAW Chief: 'We Won Things No One Thought Possible'
UAW President Shawn Fain is interviewed on Sept. 6 in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

General Motors, the final holdout in the United Auto Workers strike, finally caved this week, reaching a tentative agreement with workers that would bring to an end six weeks of strikes that targeted GM, Ford, and Stellantis—the so-called Big Three of Detroit. Details for all of the automakers' agreements with the union are still trickling out, but UAW President Shawn Fain seems pleased with the results. "We won things no one thought possible," he said last week when announcing the UAW agreement with Ford, per the AP. The news agency lays out some of the workers' wins, including 25% pay increases by April 2028 (possibly more than 30%, when including cost-of-living boosts), $5,000 "ratification" bonuses, and the right to strike over plant shutdowns. What workers didn't get: a shorter workweek (they'd lobbied for 32 hours, but with pay for 40), traditional pension plans, and health benefits for retirees hired since 2007. More on the strike's end:

  • The winners: In addition to the UAW and the workers under its wing, the Wall Street Journal profiles three young activists who helped notch these victories—despite the fact that none of these 30-somethings have ever put in a day's work at an auto plant. They include Jonah Furman, a communications specialist who has helped with the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and AOC; labor attorney Ben Dictor, who previously found himself in the spotlight for being the first lawyer to question former President Trump under oath after Trump left office; and Chris Brooks, a labor reporter and activist, called "the nucleus of Fain's team."
  • 'The losers': Per an expert who talks to Quartz, those would be car buyers, who may see "major fallout" from the UAW-automaker agreements, via higher car prices to compensate for the now-increased labor costs. "You could probably be seeing increases of $1,000 to $1,500 per vehicle in order to offset these losses," says Lauren Fix of Car Coach Reports. "It is a victory for autoworkers, and [UAW president] Shawn Fain delivered what he promised, but it is not a victory for [the] auto industry as a whole, and not a victory for consumers."

  • Other automakers in the UAW's sights: "When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won't just be with the Big Three, but with the Big Five or the Big Six," Fain said Sunday in an online message to members, per the AP. The Dallas Morning News predicts that Fain may target other, nonunion automakers in the future, including Toyota and Mercedes-Benz.
  • 'One particularly enticing target': That would be Tesla, per Bloomberg, which calls Elon Musk's company "the most valuable automaker in the world." With tens of thousands of non-union employees across multiple states, Tesla's workers climbing under the UAW fold would not only boost the UAW's membership, but also "help the union exert its clout as the industry shifts to a battery-powered future," per the news outlet.
  • Ripple effect: That's what Reuters sees in industries across the board, with "increased awareness among workers about record profits [that] has translated to company concessions and improved deals," according to Marcos Feldman, a senior researcher with the labor organizing nonprofit Jobs to Move America. "Unionizing efforts are the most aggressive they've ever been," he tells the news agency, which cites UPS and Caterpillar as companies who've had similar results on the picket lines.
(More UAW strike stories.)

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