The auto industry is facing a conflict between union labor, management, and the transition to electric vehicles. And President Biden is asking everyone to remember that livelihoods are on the line.
On Monday, the president said in a press statement that the auto industry must keep focused on providing “good jobs that can support a family,” as it pivots towards electric vehicles and increased automation. He wants automakers to ensure that “transitions are fair and look to retool, reboot, and rehire in the same factories and communities at comparable wages, while giving existing workers the first shot to fill those jobs.”
The United Auto Workers, the union which represents almost 150,000 workers between three major automakers, is still considering whether or not to put their support behind Biden’s 2024 campaign, as they did his 2020 election. They will probably make that decision in their next contract; their current working contract expires September 14, and the terms of the new one are why Biden is speaking of auto workers.
“The UAW helped create the American middle class and as we move forward in this transition to new technologies, the UAW deserves a contract that sustains the middle class,” Biden said.
In their new contract, the UAW is looking for standardized wages, raises that match with recent inflation, and restoring the cost-of-living raises, defined pensions for all workers, and retiree health coverage that have been stripped from union contracts in recent decades.
GM, one of the three automakers involved, said in a statement that it’s bargaining in “good faith” with the UAW on “a contract that provides job security and supports good wages and benefits for our team members while enabling companies to compete successfully domestically and globally.” The automakers argue that they are facing unprecedented development costs as the industry pivots.
GM reported $9.9 billion in net income in 2022, and the average UAW worker currently makes approximately $45 an hour.