UAW President Wants Workers to “Share in the Upside” of Auto Industry Recovery

With Detroit’s Big 3 automakers making a comeback, United Auto Workers’ recently elected president Bob King says it’s time for them to reinstate some of the benefits his union conceded in order to keep them afloat in recent years.

King was nominated as the labor union’s president by his predecessor Ron Gettelfinger and was elected during the UAW’s national convention in Detroit last June.

Following King’s election, Clark University labor professor Gary Chaison predicted, “There will be tremendous pressure on him to roll back the concessions. He’s got to walk a very fine line to reverse some of what was lost and keep some in place for the promise of a brighter future.”

Speaking with reporters outside Ford Motor Company’s Wayne, Michigan manufacturing plant on Friday King said, “We want workers to share in the upside just like they did in the downside,” and added, “Workers made a lot of sacrifices to help the industry survive.”

During his tenure as the union’s president, Gettelfinger was instrumental in persuading President Barack Obama to arrange bailout packages for Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Company that kept them from total collapse. Ford Motor Company refused the Obama administration’s offer of financial assistance.

Since being elected as the Union’s president last summer, workers have repeatedly called for King to pressure Ford, GM and Chrysler to resort their wages and benefits.

King said that, over the past five years, UAW members have conceded between $7,000 and $30,000 in pay, bonuses and cost-of-living adjustments to Detroit’s Big 3 automakers. The union also agreed to a two-tier wage system in which, new hires earn $14 an hour on average. That’s about half the amount hourly production workers who were hired before the system was implemented are paid.

The UAW’s current contracts with Chrysler, Ford and GM will be up for renegotiation next year.

In addition to calling on the automakers to begin reinstating benefits and restoring wages, King also called on the federal government to enact new economic-stimulus measures aimed at lowering the nation’s jobless rate. He said auto sales “are not going as well as they should,” and warned, “Consumers are not going to buy vehicles if they don’t have jobs or aren’t confident in their job.”

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