The UAW president rejected Stellandis’ offer of a 21% pay raise

The head of the United Auto Workers on Sunday rejected a public offer by Jeep’s parent company, Stellandis, to raise wages by 21 percent over four years.

Netherlands-based Stellandis was formed in 2021 through the merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s Peugeot. said Saturday The “higher competition” gave the union a 21 percent wage increase. The union said it held “fair production” talks with Ford on Saturday and plans to meet with GM. Both those companies have offered 20 percent raises over four years.

But on Sunday morning, UAW President Shawn Fine said Stellandis’ 21 percent offer and other terms offered by the automakers were insufficient and the strike would continue.

“It’s definitely not,” Fine said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He further said, “We have asked for a 40 percent wage hike. And the reason we asked for a 40 percent pay rise is that CEO pay has gone up 40 percent in the last four years alone.

About 12,700 UAW members, or 8 percent of the union’s auto workers, went on strike Friday to demand higher wages and more equal treatment and benefits for temporary workers, whose wages have lagged behind full-time workers for years. This is the first time the UAW has gone on strike against three of America’s largest automakers at the same time.

Why UAW Workers Say They’re On Strike

The strike comes as unemployment in the United States is at historic lows, but the fallout from the pandemic and high inflation have heightened workers’ concerns. Autoworkers are experiencing a broad resurgence in union activity in the U.S. as companies continue to increase profits and executive pay, and workers from nurses to Hollywood scriptwriters and actors seek better wages and job security.

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Although the UAW strike only affects a handful of plants, Fein said the union “does what we have to do” and is willing to expand the walkouts. “If we don’t get better deals and if we don’t get down to taking care of members’ needs, we’re going to escalate this thing,” Fine said.

Fine’s comments were subdued Any hope created by Saturday’s talks of a quick settlement. The union is asking for a 36 percent raise over four years, a four-day work week, defined-benefit pensions and company-sponsored health care in retirement. Automakers counter that their concessions to the union are the best in history, but can’t meet all their demands while remaining profitable.

A spokeswoman for Stellantis said the company will renegotiate with the UAW on Monday. Spokesmen for Ford and GM did not return requests for comment.

“Our hope is that this will end soon. But the record profits have been made,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DNY), who traveled to Detroit on Sunday.

Over the weekend, workers gathered on pickets at plants where the UAW had launched a strike. Cheers were high as supporters brought items and honked their car horns in unison.

“We want to become middle class again,” said Andrew Hudson, of Wayne, Mich. A production worker strikes outside Ford’s assembly plant in , where the company builds Ranger trucks and Bronco SUVs. A few weeks ago, Hudson reached Ford’s top pay rate of $32 an hour, but it took him six years to get there. He said he is on strike because he doesn’t want his new colleagues to have to wait years for higher salaries.

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“So many auto workers before us, like my grandfather, we couldn’t enjoy the American dream,” said Hudson, whose grandfather owned a house and two cars while putting his children through college on an auto worker’s salary. In contrast, Hudson said he and his colleagues “struggle” to make it on their own salaries.

Nicholas Harvey, 33, a single father who works in material handling, said he was on strike for higher pay. At $24.85 an hour, he said he had to move back in with his parents after breaking up with his wife. “It’s a coveted job,” he said. “But I’m paycheck to paycheck. I want my own house and save money [my kids’] College, but hard to save.

Meanwhile, fears of a presidential election hung over the strike as politicians from both parties weighed in. President Biden and former Republican front-runner Donald Trump have taken contrasting approaches. Match their “record corporate profits” with “record contracts” for workers and criticize Trump as UAW leader. Biden said on Friday that he was offering two of his senior advisers to help broker a deal.

Midwestern states traditionally home to auto factories, including Michigan, are expected to be key battleground states in the 2024 election. But Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) warned politicians Sunday to keep their distance. “I don’t believe the president should intervene or be at the negotiating table,” Dingle told CBS.

For his part, Fine said another Trump presidency would be a “disaster,” but he stopped short of endorsing Biden, saying the president should go down in history with the self-styled moniker of “pro-union president.”

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Trump and other Republicans have criticized Democrats for pushing the country toward electric vehicles, many of which are not made in the United States. Democrats have said companies should consider their workers when pushing the transition to climate-friendly cars. Chinese companies like BYD currently dominate the global electric vehicle market, and even American companies like Tesla order their batteries, key components of electric cars, from foreign manufacturers.

“Anyone who doesn’t believe global warming is happening isn’t paying attention,” Fein said Sunday. “But this change should be a fair change. As things stand, workers are left behind.

As Americans’ interest in buying cars continues to grow, the Big Three automakers are ramping up the design and production of electric vehicles. But a major strike could get in the way of that change, and the ability of traditional automakers to catch up to foreign rivals and electric-only manufacturers like Tesla, said Don Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

“A long and nasty strike … would be a complete defeat for the Detroit Three,” Ives said. He added that any delay in ramping up electric vehicle production would benefit Tesla, which faces increasing competition from traditional automakers.

Lauren Gurley contributed to this report from Wayne, Mich.

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