Home Business Biden meets with auto workers’ union president as contract negotiations start

Biden meets with auto workers’ union president as contract negotiations start

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Biden meets with auto workers’ union president as contract negotiations start

President Biden met with United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain on Wednesday at the White House as labor contract discussions are starting between the union and the “Big Three” automakers.

The members of the Big Three include General Motors, Stellantis and Ford. 

The meeting took place in the West Wing, an official told Reuters. 

“We just really discussed what options are out there. We just have to see where things go,” Fain explained. 

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Breaking with the long-standing tradition of the “handshake ceremony” with the auto executives of the Big Three automakers to open contract talks, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain instead speaks with and does “members’ handshakes” with Stella (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images / Getty Images)

A spokesperson for the union told Politico that Fain had asked for his support in contract talks, pushing for him to use his “bully pulpit” as well as stronger labor provisions to federal grants and loans funded by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Last week, Fain said the union was not yet ready to endorse the president for re-election. However, Fain has made clear that it will not support former President Trump, according to The Hill.

“We have expectations and that’s why we haven’t made endorsements yet. We expect people to be there for us if they want our endorsement,” he said.

In June, Fain – who represents 150,000 hourly workers at the U.S. automakers – criticized a Department of Energy plan told to give more than $9 billion to Ford and South Korea’s SK On to build three U.S. battery plants. 

He has not ruled out striking all three automakers if new contracts are not reached by the Sept. 14 expiry date.

Negotiations with Stellantis started last Thursday, Ford’s started last Friday, and General Motors negotiations began on Tuesday.

“Stellantis and the UAW have a long history of working together, and our intent is to continue this partnership. Last week, we began discussions that will set our course for the next four years and beyond. Our focus will be on negotiating a contract that will ensure our future competitiveness in today’s rapidly changing global market and preserve good wages and benefits that recognize the contributions of our represented workforce,” the automaker told FOX Business in an email on Tuesday. “Together, we must approach these negotiations with open minds and a willingness to roll up our sleeves to find solutions that will result in a contract that is competitive in the market, provides a path to the middle class for our employees and meets the needs of our customers.”

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Shawn Fain

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain speaks with workers at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant on July 12, 2023 in Wayne, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images / Getty Images)

“September 14th is a deadline, not a reference point, so it is in the best interest for this corporation to get down to business with our bargaining committee and get to work to resolve the demands of the membership,” Fain said in an opening statement to Stellantis on the first day of negotiations. 

“I want to close by saying I find a pathetic irony in the fact that we were late in getting started today because the head of Mr. Stewart was late for our 10 o’clock start time. And Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares wants to constantly talk about absenteeism when it comes to our workers, yet Mr. Tavares can’t find the time to attend the beginning of the most critical set of bargaining in this company and our workers’ history,” he noted at the end of his remarks.  

“Our single most important priority is to negotiate a contract that is in the best interest of the company and our 43,000 represented employees, their families and our communities. We will not be distracted,” Stellantis said, regarding Fain’s comments. “We believe yesterday’s meeting with the UAW leadership team members went well and we intend on continuing to approach these discussions in a respectful manner.”

On Monday, the UAW notably tweeted about the ongoing Writers Guild of American (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes.

“Our industries may be different, but our fight is the same: corporate executives make millions, while the workers who make the industry run get crumbs. To the members of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, the UAW has got your back,” it said.

Carlos Tavares

Carlos Tavares, chief executive officer of Stellantis NV, during the unveiling of the all-electric Jeep Avenger SUV on the opening day of the Paris Motor Show in Paris on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. (Nathan Laine/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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“The automakers can afford to make things right,” Fain told workers as he met with them on Wednesday. “They can afford to address our issues; cost-of-living, supporting retirees, job security and ending wage tiers. But they’re not going to just give it to us. We’ve got to be in this thing together. This is about you. This is about our next generation.”

“We believe the UAW, given their historic and constructive relationship in the automotive industry, would be well positioned to represent the workforce,” GM spokesperson Jeannine Ginivan said in a statement to Politico.

General Motors pointed FOX Business to a recent statement which asserted its commitment to reinvesting profits in plants and providing jobs that support employees and communities, noting it has invested more than $16 billion to bolster GM’s U.S. manufacturing operations and provide job security to over 50,000 manufacturing employees since the last contract in 2019. 

Furthermore, the company said, following recent investment announcements last month at assembly plants in Flint, Michigan, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Arlington, Texas, the total amount invested in its U.S. manufacturing operations since 2013 stands at more than $31.6 billion.

“We are proud of the robust total compensation and benefits package we provide to our team members, including a world-class healthcare plan, a profit-sharing program that just distributed the largest bonus payments ever to our employees, and career development and training opportunities,” General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “We have a long history of negotiating fair contracts with the UAW that reward our employees and support the long-term success of our business. Our goal this time will be no different.”

FOX Business’ request for comment from Ford was not immediately returned.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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