UAW Targets 30% Wage Bump to Satisfy Workers, Grow Members

COLA Included in Hike Demand, Which Is Down From Initial 40%
UAW workers on the picket line
United Auto Workers members picket at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images via Bloomberg News)

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The United Auto Workers union wants to emerge from its strike against Detroit’s three major automakers with at least a 30% pay raise, according to people familiar with the matter.

That’s the level — which is lower than the around 40% hike it initially proposed to Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV — that the union believes will allow it to satisfy existing members and organize nonunion plants. It takes into account a cost-of-living allowance, or COLA, and a general wage increase, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private.

A wage bump of at least 30% is expected to generate interest from nonunionized auto workers and help grow the union’s membership, according to the people.

The union’s president, Shawn Fain, is on a mission to expand the UAW by organizing future electric vehicle battery plants and by targeting workers at Tesla Inc. and the U.S. plants of Asian and European automakers, two people said. Its membership has fallen to 400,000 from more than 1 million in the 1970s.

A UAW spokesperson declined to comment. GM and Ford declined to comment. Stellantis didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Ford has already offered a 20% pay increase plus COLA payments on top of it. The UAW also had lowered its demand for pay raises to 36%. If the COLA formula gives workers additional raises, it represents a smaller gap between the two sides on pay.

The wage increase is part of a complex puzzle that also includes how much the automakers will invest in their factories to secure jobs for the UAW. Other issues include compensation for workers at future battery plants and retiree benefits, including the union’s demand for a return to traditional pensions. Each piece has to be agreeable to all parties, or the deal will fall apart.

The UAW has been striking the automakers since Sept. 15, the first time it has targeted all three simultaneously. Fain is threatening to widen the strike Sept. 29 if the companies don’t show progress at the bargaining table.

Fain already had workers walk out at 38 GM and Stellantis parts distribution facilities last week, saying that there was too little progress in talks.

By David Welch, Keith Naughton and Gabrielle Coppola.

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