LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – A common theme between many striking auto workers in Lansing, is pressing Detroit automakers for new contracts that retrieves lost ground that dates back to late 2008. Many of those benefits were things cost of living allowances and wages union leaders say have not kept up with the big three’s profits.
It’s a root cause for weeks of strikes around the country says Michigan State University professor Steven Melnyk.
“In the mind of the UAW i think, they saw the concessions as temporary,” said the supply chain management professor. “I think the big three see the concessions as this is the new level playing ground. “
Melnyk said reduction in wage rates and retirements came into the picture when GM and Chrysler – now Stellantis– were bailed out by the federal government in 2008.
Another sticking point Melnyk said is the employee tier system. “To me, the tier system is a visible reminder of inequities that exist that UAW workers have to deal with,” he said.
It’s something many employees say came in around the same time as the bailout and has lead to frustration during contract talks.
“It’s a bunch of hoops, basically. The go phases, the hoops and got to do this and you are limited on your vacation hours, you don’t get very many,” said Alex Hernandez, a long time GM worker in Lansing.
Hernandez comes from a family GM employees and has several years under his belt at the company.
He agrees the tier system has been a sticking point and has to go. While senior workers are in a better spot when it comes to wages and benefits, he’s looking out for the next generation of employees.
“As UAW workers, we were taught young to look out for each other,” said Hernandez.
On Friday, GM officials offered another proposal to UAW leaders. It included reinstatement of cost of living benefits for senior employees along with 23 percent pay increase over the course of the contract. In a video released Thursday, officials said they have invested more than they have profited in the last 10 years and cannot afford to not invest more in the company’s future.
“The implication for jobs would be devastating and that is not a reality we are willing to expect” said Gerald Johnson, GM executive vice president of global manufacturing and sustainability.