US: a look back at the UAW-Detroit three talks of 2011 image

The United Automotive Workers union is set to renegotiate the labor agreements for the represented workers at the three largest US automakers – General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

The summer negotiations for the contracts for the upcoming four years are going to kick off next week, so let’s take a look back to 2011 and see what the interested parties had to say back then and see if they delivered on the promises or not. For the upcoming round of discussions, there are numerous new faces and the automakers are doing better than expected as the completely recovered from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Let’s start off with GM, the largest US automaker and the third biggest in the world. Bob King, back then the UAW president, said they were “going to level the competitive playing field for our membership at General Motors.” The outcome is that the union is right at the door of Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee where it has gained management access but has not become the exclusive bargaining agent. So, more things to be done there.

It’s time to see the Ford pledge. Both the UAW president and Ford’s then chief executive, Alan Mullally, after an eight year rule, are out of the picture. Back then, the UAW said there had been numerous worker sacrifices just before and during the Great Recession. The differences were barely resolved, with the majority of Ford employees negatively voting the proposal and only approving it after UAW leaders sold the deal better. Meanwhile, the changes at Fiat Chrysler might be the most interesting and profound. Here, none of the 2011 actors on either side is present at the bargaining table. FCA US, now the company running the assets of Chrysler Group LLC, has always been the smaller profit holder, so they naturally pushed the UAW harder than its larger peers. For example, they have no cap on hiring entry level workers on the so-called Second Tier wage system and this will be one of the major issues for the negotiations this year as well.