United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain

United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain speaks to union members and supporters in Warren, Michigan on August 20, 2023.

(Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

UAW Chief Says Contract Fight With Big Automakers 'Boils Down to One Thing: It's Corporate Greed'

"Either you stand for a billionaire class where everybody else gets left behind, or you stand for the working class," said United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain.

With a potential strike just a week away, United Auto Workers president Shawn Fain said late Wednesday that the union's members are "fired up" and prepared to do what's necessary to win a fair contract after years of massive profits for Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis.

"They've watched the corporations make a quarter of a trillion dollars in the last decade as we went backwards," Fain said in an appearance on CNBC.

The so-called "Big Three" automakers have made $21 billion in the first six months of 2023, Fain noted, pushing back on automakers' claims that accepting UAW's demands—which include a 46% wage hike and a 32-hour work week with 40 hours of pay—would lead to unsustainable cost increases.

"What angers me is to hear the corporations talk about how workers being treated fairly is going to drive up the cost of vehicles. In the last four years, the cost of vehicles went up 30%; our wages went up 6%. Corporate CEO pay went up 40%," said Fain. "This boils down to one thing: It's corporate greed. It's not our contracts, it's not our members' demands. It's corporate greed. And that needs to change in this country."

UAW's contracts with the Big Three are set to expire on September 14. Fain reiterated Wednesday that the union intends to go on strike against any automaker that doesn't come to an acceptable agreement with the union by next week. (UAW has never before gone on strike against all three major automakers at the same time.)

"We're down to the wire. We have eight days to go," Fain said. "We're pushing. We're available 24/7, as we have been for the last seven weeks, so it's up to the companies on where we end up and whether we end up having to take action or not on the 14th."

Fain told the Associated Press that UAW negotiators are set to meet with General Motors on Thursday to get the company's response to the union's demands, which it outlined more than a month ago.

Stellantis, for its part, is expected to make its counteroffer by the end of the week.

Last week, the UAW filed unfair labor practice charges against both companies, alleging that they had unlawfully refused to bargain in good faith. The National Labor Relations Board is investigating the accusations.

UAW has also reportedly submitted its response to Ford's contract counteroffer, which Fain dismissed as insulting. The company offered a 9% wage increase through 2027, a far cry from the UAW's call for a 46% raise.

While Fain has stressed that the goal of the ongoing contract fight is to win fair treatment for workers, not to strike, the union president told CNBC that a strike would signal to President Joe Biden and other political leaders "where the working class people in this country stand."

"It's time for politicians in this country to pick a side," Fain said. "Either you stand for a billionaire class where everybody else gets left behind, or you stand for the working class."

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