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We Asked Every Member of Congress Where They Stand on a UAW Strike
Washington has been slow to respond to the potential strike, but the clock is ticking.
By Paul Blest, More Perfect Union
The potential United Auto Workers strike, which could begin as soon as 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, represents an opportunity for autoworkers to get fair pay and better treatment on the job after their role in helping to save the industry during the Great Recession.
But the likely strike may also have enormous political ramifications, both in Washington and in states home to factories and large constituencies of autoworkers at Ford, GM, and Stellantis. And so far, support for the UAW from some of the most high-profile politicians in the country has been tepid at best.
Among other things, the UAW is seeking in the new contract significant wage increases, the end of the two-tiered wage system, and better benefits. They also want to ensure that workers at electric vehicle battery factories are guaranteed the same level of pay and benefits as assembly line workers; at the moment, such workers aren’t covered under the UAW’s contract with the Big Three automakers, which has unsurprisingly resulted in worse pay and job security.
More Perfect Union reached out to every member of Congress and presidential candidate on Monday morning to comment on the contract dispute between the automakers and the UAW. As of Wednesday, fewer than 60 members of Congress had responded, the overwhelming majority being Democrats. (You can see every member and their statement in our tracker here.)
In Michigan, for example, Sen. Gary Peters and Rep. Dan Kildee, both Democrats, each reiterated their support for the right of workers to collectively bargain but shied away from criticizing the companies, who collectively generated an enormous $31 billion in free cash flow in 2022.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a progressive who represents part of Detroit, took a different tack and said that “record profits should result in record contracts.”
"150,000 UAW members are fighting for a fair contract, and I’ve got their back,” Tlaib told More Perfect Union. “I grew up in a union household so I have seen the power of the UAW. It’s time for the Big Three to do what’s right.”
Indiana is home to facilities for all three of the Big Three car companies, but as of Wednesday, not a single member of Congress from the state (nine Republicans and two Democrats) could point us to a statement they’d made about the UAW contract dispute.
Rep. Jasmine Crockett of Texas, who represents a district near a GM plant in Arlington, emphasized the need to provide good-paying jobs for people building electric vehicles. “As demand for electric vehicles grows, it is imperative that we support workforce development in this evolving field so our auto workers have the tools they need to transfer their existing expertise into an increasingly electric future,” Crockett told More Perfect Union.
President Joe Biden, who has wielded the power of the executive branch to expand workers’ rights and ability to organize while branding himself “the most pro-union president,” has continued to express confidence that an agreement will be reached before the strike deadline. Biden has also sent top adviser Gene Sperling as a liaison to negotiations.
But Biden’s support has been largely muted in the lead-up to the deadline; as of Wednesday, administration officials would not say he supports a strike but rather a fair deal. The UAW has also been perhaps the most visible labor union in the country that so far hasn’t endorsed Biden — an endorsement that former President Donald Trump has continued to jockey for, even in a statement to More Perfect Union Wednesday.
“I strongly urge the U.A.W. to make the complete and total repeal of Joe Biden’s insane Electric Vehicle mandate their top, non-negotiable demand in any strike,” Trump said. “If that disastrous Biden policy is allowed to stand, the U.S. auto industry will cease to exist, and all your jobs will be sent to China. That’s why there’s no such thing as a ‘fair transition’ to all electric cars. For the American Autoworker, that’s a transition to Hell.”
(Contrary to Trump’s claim, while the Biden administration has approved various manufacturing incentives to spur electric vehicle production, Biden has not supported or implemented any EV “mandates.”)
In Trump’s typical way, he also implored UAW workers to “drop out of the Union and start a new one that's going to protect your interests right” if the union doesn’t endorse the billionaire’s third run for president.
Like Trump, the few congressional Republicans who’ve responded to our requests have made it clear they’re more concerned with scoring points against Biden and unions than with the ability of autoworkers to make a decent living. Far-right Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, for example, pinned all of the autoworkers’ problems on inflation and touted his state’s status as a right-to-work state, while saying the UAW’s proposed raise is “massive” and “should be rejected.”
"The UAW endorsed Biden in 2020. The union got the policies they wanted,” Gosar said. “This failed economy rests squarely on UAW's political choice and the union betrayed its own workers.”
Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio, meanwhile, said in a Twitter thread that a strike “would devastate our economy and harm a lot of people who depend on the auto industry,” while slamming Biden’s “car-killing” policies by promoting cleaner electric vehicles, a transition which is already fully underway.
But Democrats point out that with a strong contract, EVs can guarantee the future of American manufacturing jobs even as that transition is already underway. “Battery workers need to be paid the same amount as U.A.W. workers at the current Big Three,” Rep. Ro Khanna of California told the New York Times. “It’s how we contrast with Trump: We’re for creating good-paying manufacturing jobs across the Midwest.”
If you’re curious about what your member of Congress has to say about the potential strike, check out our tracker at the More Perfect Union website. Much more coverage to come.
UAW negotiations update
Just before this newsletter was published, UAW president Shawn Fain shared an update on contract negotiations via Facebook Live.
He announced that automakers have conceded on several key worker demands. They're now offering raises as high as 20%, cost-of-living increases, faster progressions to top wages, and higher starting wages for temp workers. (Until last week, GM & Stellantis hadn't even provided economic counterproposals.)
Fain said that there’s still a way to go in the negotiations. But one thing is clear: when workers build power, companies are forced to listen. Fain shared a breakdown of where the proposals from each of the Big 3 automakers stand:
Fain also confirmed that UAW is planning “limited” and “targeted” strikes against the three carmakers if no tentative agreements are in place by the 11:59 p.m. Thursday deadline.
Targeted strikes at key facilities, rather than broad strikes across them all, could allow the union to halt auto production while still preserving its strike fund and keeping most UAW members on the job and receiving paychecks. Analysts have estimated that the union's $825 million strike fund, which pays workers during work stoppages, would be exhausted in roughly three months if every Big 3 UAW member were on strike.
Marvel’s VFX workers make history
In other news, Marvel VFX workers have just won the first-ever union in the visual effects industry.
The workers who power the biggest superhero movies on the planet voted unanimously to unionize with IATSE’s VFX Union.
This is a major first step for the industry, and Disney VFX workers will be voting next.
Watch our report today about the victory at Marvel: