While Americans across the nation continue to grapple with decades high inflation and economic uncertainty looms large, automakers across the country brace themselves for a potential strike. The United Autoworkers union, following several threatening claims of strikes if labor deals could not be settled upon by a September 14th deadline, announced on August 15th that it is readying to hold a vote to authorize a strike sometime this week. Organization President Shawn Fain announced details last week via Facebook Live. Over 150,000 autoworkers across the United States are members of the union.
The American auto industry, (which includes the big three- Ford, Chrysler and General Motors) has never been the same since the 2008 recession in which Chrysler and General Motors both filed for bankruptcy and survived only through government assistance. Dozens of plants across the United States have closed since the turn of the century, and hundreds of thousands of jobs in auto manufacturing have been outsourced overseas over several decades. Trade agreements which have allowed corporations to outsource labor and save production costs have hurt workers and weakened the unions ability to negotiate for fairer wages, while simultaneously hurting American corporation’s ability to compete with foreign companies. Workers have been feeling the brunt of a changing American economy over several decades- the main demands of UAW reflect this as the union calls for increases in wages.
Statistically, automaker CEO’s have experienced 40% pay increases over several years while workers have experienced stagnant wages, with new hires receiving markedly lower pay for the same work as seasoned veterans in the industry. Worsening the problem is the fact that the already struggling American automotive industry, which no longer wields the power it once did, simply cannot compete with foreign companies that have labor costs over 10% lower than them. Ultimately, a strike would be ominous and risky for workers, and costly for the corporations if an agreement is not reached.