Breaking with the long-standing tradition of the “handshake ceremony” in which the auto executives of the Big Three automakers open contract talks, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain will instead conduct “member handshakes” with Stellantis employees at the Stellantis. Sterling Heights Assembly Plant on July 12, 2023 in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The UAW opens auto contract negotiations with Stellantis today, Ford on July 14 and General Motors on July 18. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Bill Pugliano | Getty Images News | Getty Images
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said Monday that the White House will have no role in mediating an agreement to end the autoworkers strike as the strike enters its fourth day with no resolution in sight.
“No, not at all,” Fain said when asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” if the White House could help the union and General engines, Ford And Stellar reach an agreement.
“This fight is not about the president,” Fain said. “It’s not about the former president or any other person before that. This fight is about workers standing up for economic and social justice and getting their fair share because they are tired of going backwards.”
Fain’s comments come after President Joe Biden said Friday he would send acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior White House adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit to help with negotiations.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNBC in an interview Monday that the White House wants a “win-win” deal. “The two sides must narrow their differences and work on a contract that is good for workers and also good for the industry,” Yellen said.
The strike has entered its fourth day with no solution in sight. Nearly 13,000 UAW members are on strike at three major factories in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.
Biden, who faces re-election next year, often touts his working-class roots and has tried to associate himself closely with the labor movement, but the strikes will test that credibility if the dispute remains unresolved and triggers broader economic disruption. Former President Donald Trump is also seeking support from UAW members, attacking the union’s leaders as he seeks another term in the White House.
Biden largely sided with the striking workers in his brief speech on Friday, calling on automakers to share the record profits they have made in recent years.
“Those record profits, in my opinion, are not fairly distributed among workers,” the president said.
The autoworkers are demanding, among other things, a 40% hourly wage increase, a 32-hour workweek, the elimination of compensation levels, a return to traditional pensions, the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments and better vacation and family leave benefits.
Where do things stand?
Fain said Monday that the union and automakers remain “far apart” on several issues. He specifically mentioned pay levels, where employees are paid differently for the same job.
“We have been very clear from the beginning that we want to end the tiers,” Fain told MSNBC. “You have employees doing the same work for very different wages and there is no excuse for that.”
The UAW president said the union’s members are prepared to escalate: “If the companies don’t respond to the members’ demands, we have to do what we have to do.”
The automakers have said the union’s demands are crippling the companies and putting them at a disadvantage compared to non-union automakers. Ford CEO Jim Farley said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday that the automaker would have gone bankrupt under the UAW’s current demands.
Ford temporarily laid off 600 non-striking workers at its Wayne, Michigan, assembly plant on Friday. GM has said its assembly plant in Fairfax, Missouri, would have to close as early as this week, affecting 2,000 workers.
Trump on Friday accused the UAW leadership of abandoning its members and claimed the Biden administration’s efforts to transition to electric cars would result in manufacturing jobs shifting to China.
“The autoworkers are sold on their leadership, and their leadership should support Trump,” Trump, who is the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, told NBC News in an interview.