Mr. Empathy doesn’t just own X; he also owns Tesla. Although Musk has now been embarrassed enough to restore the UAW’s Twitter verification (which the union had paid for), his first instinct was to remove it when 13,000 car manufacturing workers [out of 146,000] went out on strike Thursday night. Workers at Ford, General Motors and Chrysler (now Stellantis) in Missouri, Ohio and Michigan are on strike, in part because their electric vehicle manufacturers don’t allow unions.
Ryan Grim and Ken Klipperstein reported yesterday that “Following the 2007 and 2008 financial crisis, autoworkers agreed to radical concessions on everything from pensions to wages to health care in order to help Detroit emerge successfully from bankruptcy. The companies have since returned to extraordinary levels of profitability, with CEO pay and company profits climbing by 30 to 40 percent in recent years. UAW workers have demanded similar increases over the next four years, demands the companies have rejected even as they continue stock buybacks intended to pump up the share price and corresponding executive compensation.”
When General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who makes nearly $30 million a year was asked why workers haven’t gotten the same kind of 34% raise she has, she responded with a canned platitude her p.r. person wrote for her: “When the company does well, everyone does well.”
Grim and Klipperstein explained the role of vehemently anti-union fake Democrap Joe Manchin and even more anti-union, the words richest man, who is only rich because the U.S. government made him rich:
The Big Three automakers and the UAW are focused closely on the role organized labor will play in the production of electric vehicles and the batteries needed to power them, as is Elon Musk, the owner of both Twitter and Tesla. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, as a price for his support of Joe Biden’s climate agenda, insisted on stripping a provision that would have tilted the EV production playing field in favor of unions. Musk spoke out against the measure as well.
Tesla pays significantly lower wages than the Big Three, averaging $45 to $50 per hour versus $64 to $67 per hour, respectively. The company has led a slash-and-burn union-busting campaign in recent months.
In February, Tesla fired at least 18 software employees at a plant in Buffalo, New York, after they announced plans to unionize. Then, in March, a federal appeals court found that Musk violated federal labor law when he tweeted a threat to employees’ stock options should they decide to unionize and that Tesla also broke the law when it fired a worker engaged in union organizing.
“Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union,” Musk tweeted in 2018. “Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?”
In April, Tesla suffered another loss, this time in front of the National Labor Relations Board. The agency ruled that the company violated federal labor law when it forbade employees from discussing wages and working conditions.
John Nichols explained the negotiations: “The United Auto Workers went into negotiations with the Big Three automakers and delivered what is arguably the boldest set of demands from a major industrial union in modern times. The union asked for a 46 percent pay hike, improved health care and retirement benefits, the renewal of cost-of-living pay raises, an end to different tiers of wages for older and newer workers, the restoration of defined pension benefits, and a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay. In any serious labor negotiation, the union asks for a lot, with the understanding that the final agreement will be at least somewhat more modest… But the automakers—which made a combined $21 billion in profits in the first six months of 2023 alone—claimed, as the Thursday expiration deadline for existing UAW contracts approached, that they could not afford to meet even the most reasonable, most basic demands of the workers.”
It’s the first time in history that the UAW is striking all three automakers at once. And, the writers, reported “This strike enjoys an extraordinary level of support from the American people. When Gallup pollsters asked voters just before Labor Day which side of the dispute between the UAW and the Big Three they sympathized with, 75 percent said they were with the union. Just 19 percent lined up with the corporations. A Morning Consult survey conducted last week found 2-1 support for the UAW, and noted that even the union’s boldest proposals— such as the demand for a 32-hour workweek— attracted significantly more support than opposition. That’s a big deal. It confirms data showing that the general popularity of unions is rising, and that the American people have come to believe that unions benefit both their members and those who aren’t in unions, that labor organizations improve the standing of unionized companies, and that strong unions are good for the US economy. Indeed, on that last measure, Gallup found: ‘A record-high 61 percent say unions help rather than hurt the U.S. economy, eclipsing the prior high from 1999 by six points.’”
Bernie: “Despite what you might hear in the corporate media, what the UAW is fighting for is not radical. It is the reasonable demand that autoworkers, who have made enormous sacrifices over the past 40 years, finally receive a fair share of the enormous profits their labor has generated… The corporate media will always side with CEOs and shareholders. Every time working Americans stand up and demand what is just and fair, the corporate media is there to tell viewers that workers are asking for too much.”
Grim and Klipperstein concluded that “What’s clearly changed is that the American people aren’t buying the corporate spin anymore. The people have spoken, and they are sticking with the union.” Including Biden! While Trump told NBC News that “The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership,” Biden had a very different perspective. He said "record corporate profits" should lead to "record contracts" for workers. And yesterday he told the NY Times that “No one wants a strike. But I respect the workers right to use their options in the collective bargaining system, and I understand the workers’ frustration.”
Last night, Lucas Kunce (above), the progressive Democrat taking on Josh Hawley in Missouri, walked the picket line at the Wentzville GM plant. In a statement he said, “If CEOs at the Big 3 auto companies can afford to give themselves 40% pay raises while they’re handing out $66B in stock buybacks and dividends to shareholders, they sure as hell can afford to give auto workers fair wages and the contract they deserve. American auto workers have seen their average real hourly earnings fall 19.3% since 2008. It's criminal. I stand in solidarity with UAW and every auto worker fighting for what they've earned.” He wasn’t the only Democrat eager to show solidarity with the union members. Michigan Senator Gary Peters did likewise as did Sherrod Brown at the Toledo Stellantis plant. Today John Fetterman drove his UAW-built Ford Bronco from Braddock out to the factory in Michigan to walk the picket line with the workers. Bernie, at a UAW rally in Detroit yesterday: “It is time for you to end your greed,” Sanders said. “It is time for you to treat your employees with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is time to sit down and negotiate a fair contract... I say to Mary Barra, the CEO of GM. Last year, you made over $29 million. Since you became CEO 8 years ago, you have made over $200 million in total compensation. Do you have any clue what it’s like for one of your workers to try to survive on $17 an hour?... Let us stand together to end corporate greed, let us stand together to rebuild the disappearing middle class, let us create an economy that works for all, not just the one percent. Let us all, every American, in every state in this country stand with the UAW.”
Republicans, on the other hand, wished the union nothing but ill. South Carolina closet case, Tim Scott said “We're seeing the UAW fight for more benefits and less hours working. More pay and fewer days on the job. It's a disconnect from work, and we have to find a way to encourage and inspire people to go back to work.” Señor Trumpanzee was on the same page: “I think [UAW president Shawn Fain is] not doing a good job in representing his union, because he's not going to have a union in three years from now. Those jobs are all going to be gone, because all of those electric cars are going to be made in China.” You can tell from Trump’s doty, incoherent response that his mind if an unfocused, tangled jumble of disjointed words and he's way too senile to get anywhere near the White House.