By TIM ROWDEN
Wentzville, MO – United Auto Workers Local 2250 members rallied here Sept. 10 ahead of today’s (Sept. 14) deadline to reach a contract with the Big Three automakers.
The UAW and the Big Three – General Motors (GM), Ford Motor Co., and Stellantis – are in contract negotiations for nearly 150,000 employees who are represented by the UAW.
Nationally, UAW members voted 97 percent to authorize a strike if automakers refuse to negotiate a fair contract by the time the current contract runs out at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14.
Nearly 4,000 people work at the GM Assembly Plant in Wentzville.
UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement Ford, General Motors and Stellantis made a combined $21 billion in profits in just the first six months of this year. That’s on top of the quarter-trillion dollars in North American profits that the Big Three made over the last decade.
The UAW, which is bargaining with all three Detroit automakers in separate talks, has asked for a 40 percent hourly wage increase across the life of the contract and the return of a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and pension plan. Ford offered a nine percent general wage increase over the life of the contract and instead of COLA, a one-time lump sum bonus.
GM made its first contract proposal Sept. 7, offering a 10 percent increase in hourly wages, but rejecting reinstatement of COLA, increases to retiree pay, all pension proposals and the union’s job security proposals. The union said GM rejected most quality-of-life proposals such as a shorter workweek, and would not agree to the UAW’s proposal to end tier wages after a 90-day progression to the top wage.
Fain called the offer “insulting.”
The UAW has filed unfair labor practice charges against both GM and Stellantis for failing to bargain in good faith.
In Wenztville, Local 2250 President Katie Deatherage said members are hoping for the best, but are ready to strike if it comes to that.
“Today is about solidarity. We’re rallying together for a strong contract. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but if it does, we’re ready here. We’re ready to fight for a fair contract, ready to fight for job security here, ready to fight against corporate greed. We’re ready to fight for fair wages, no more tiers, equal pay for equal work. It’s everything we’ve been asking for since 2007 when we gave up our concessions to help these companies be profitable. They’ve been profitable long enough, it’s our turn.
“Here at Local 2250, we’re ready. Nobody wants to strike, but if we have to, if it comes down to that, we’re ready.”
Steve Newell, vice president of 2250 said “We don’t want to take action, but it’s looking like we’re going to have to. They’re not even trying to come to the table.”
Pamela Mason, financial secretary for Local 2250 said she was hoping the automakers would at least come to a compromise on the UAW’s demands, but said “Right now it looks like the Big Three are not going to budge.”
TIME TO PAY WORKERS BACK
Most of what UAW is asking for is simply a return to where members were prior to the 2007-2009 financial crisis, when UAW members made concessions to help GM and Chrysler (now Stellantis) qualify for a federal bailout.
UAW Region 4 Director Brandon Campbell was among the guest speakers at the rally Sunday and laid out the UAW’s case.
“Our demands on the table get us back to where we were in 2007, in 2009 with the loan security agreement when we were forced to take concessions to keep these companies afloat,” Campbell said. “Those concessions should have been investments in our future, but instead of investments in our future, everything that we gave up, that was just a means for these companies to make billions more off of our backs and siphon those billions out of the American economy.”
Since 2019 autoworkers’ pay has increased only six percent, while car prices have jumped 30 percent, with the Big Three reporting $250 billion in profits the last 10 years
“These companies are making record profits, profits that go beyond the pale, beyond our imagination and record profits should absolutely equal record contracts,” Campbell said. “Our tax dollars, our public money constantly goes to these corporations to subsidize these corporations. That should be an investment by the American people not just a way to line the pockets of the already wealthy. That’s what we’re out here for – to fight for every working class American in this country.”
Darin Gilley, a member of UAW Local 2250 and former financial secretary, says workers’ demands are simple: Better pay, better benefits and better working conditions.
“There’s no reason to have big three companies make a quarter of a billion dollars in the last ten years and act like they can’t afford anything. It’s ridiculous,” Gilley said.
“They’ve eliminated pensions, retirement and an eight-year wage progression, so you spend a third of your career at substandard wages. That is an unsustainable situation.”
‘WE’RE HERE TO STAND WITH YOU’
Missouri AFL-CIO Political Director Stephen Webber told UAW members they have Missouri’s Labor Movement behind them. Webber is a former state representative and candidate for Missouri Senate.
Other speakers at the rally included Missouri State Senator and candidate for U.S. Senate Karla May (CWA Local 6300), Missouri House Minority Leader and Democratic candidate for governor Crystal Quade, candidates for attorney general State Representative Sarah Unsicker and Elad Gross, State Senator Doug Beck (Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562), State Representative Doug Clemens (formerly of UAW Local 282 and UFCW Local 655), John Bowman, a 25-year member of the UAW and president of the St. Louis County NAACP, and Lew Moye, a 59-year member of the UAW and president emeritus of the St. Louis Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), among others.