Showing posts with label workers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label workers. Show all posts

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Minimum Wage Hikes Will Boost Pay of Nearly 10 Million US Workers in 2024

 "These raises are the outcome of over a decade of workers organizing with Fight for $15," said the National Employment Law Project.

Tireless campaigning by economic justice advocates helped to secure minimum wage hikes for nearly 10 million U.S. workers starting in 2024, and one think tank noted on Wednesday that further successes at the state and local levels are expected in the coming year—but experts said the federal government must catch up with state legislators to deliver fair wages to all workers.

Monday, October 30, 2023

United Auto Workers union hails strike-ending deals with automakers that would raise top assembly-plant hourly pay to more than $40 as ‘record contracts’

 Marick Masters, Wayne State University

The United Auto Workers union agreed on a tentative new contract with General Motors on Oct. 30, 2023, days after landing similar deals with Ford Motor Co. on Oct. 25 and Stellantis, the global automaker that makes Chrysler, Dodge and Ram vehicles in North America, on Oct. 28. The pending agreements have halted the industry’s longest strike in 25 years. It began on Sept. 15, when the UAW’s prior contracts with all three automakers expired, and lasted more than six weeks. After gradually ramping up, the strike eventually included about 46,000 workers – roughly one-third of the union’s 146,000 members at the three companies.

Ford released a statement in which it said it was “pleased” to have reached a deal and “focused on restarting Kentucky Truck Plant, Michigan Assembly Plant and Chicago Assembly Plant.” Stellantis, likewise, looks forward to “resuming operations,” as one of its executives said in a statement. General Motors initially made no public statements.

The Conversation asked Marick Masters, a Wayne State University scholar of labor and business issues, to explain what’s in these contracts and their significance.

What are the terms of the contract?

According to several media reports and the union’s own announcements, Ford’s tentative labor agreement includes a 25% wage increase over the next 4½ years, as well as the restoration of a cost-of-living allowance the UAW lost in 2009.

In addition, the tentative agreements also will convert many temporary workers to full-time status, higher pay for temps, the right to go on strike over plant closures and significant increases in contributions to retirement plans.

By the end of the period covered by the Ford, GM and Stellantis contracts, the top worker wage at assembly plants will be more than US$40 an hour. All three contracts will expire on April 30, 2028.

The Stellantis deal, according to UAW officials, is similar to the one reached with Ford in other ways – as, reportedly, is the one that the UAW agreed upon with GM.

The Stellantis agreement also has provisions regarding specific North American plants, including the plant Stellantis had idled earlier in 2023 in Belvidere, Illinois, the UAW said. Stellantis has promised to add 5,000 new jobs at Belvidere and other factories over the next four years, in stark contrast to its previous intention to cut that many jobs during the same period, UAW President Shawn Fain said on Oct. 28.

The Ford contract, likewise, calls for more than $8 billion in investments in factories and other facilities, according to the UAW.

Why did workers feel the strike was necessary, and did they achieve their aims?

The workers knew that the companies had enjoyed big profits over the past several years. GM, for example, earned $10 billion in profits in 2021 and $14.5 billion in 2022.

After having made major economic concessions to help the companies survive the Great Recession, stiff international competition and the 2009 bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler – before the latter became a division of Stellantis – UAW members believed they deserved what they’re calling a “record contract” for having contributed to “record profits.”

“The days of low-wage, unstable jobs at the Big Three are coming to an end,” Fain said on Oct. 28. “The days of the Big Three walking away from the American working class, destroying our communities, are coming to an end.”

To forge its militant strategy, the union tore a page from the playbook of labor leader Walter Reuther, who led the UAW from 1946 until his death in 1970. Reuther believed that workers deserved a fair share of corporate abundance – just like shareholders and customers.

What happens next?

The UAW released the full details of the Ford contract to all of its members who are Ford workers on Oct. 29, after its leaders had signed off on it. Rank-and-file members now have to ratify the deal for it to go into effect.

The same process will happen with Stellantis on Nov. 2. The separate deal the UAW negotiated with GM will also require ratification.

In the meantime, the autoworkers who went on strike will be returning to their jobs.

How will this affect the automakers’ bottom line?

Some analysts have estimated that Ford’s contract, if ratified, would add $1.5 billion to the company’s annual labor costs. Ford itself estimated that this could add up to $900 in labor costs to each vehicle rolling off its assembly lines. Ford has also estimated that the strike cost it about $1.3 billion in pretax profits.

To put these numbers into perspective, Ford generated slightly more than $130 billion in revenue in the first three quarters of 2023, and almost $5 billion in profits.

Stellantis has not yet made public what it believes the strike has cost the company.

General Motors has said that the strike is costing the company more than $800 million.

This article was updated on Oct. 30, after GM and the UAW reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract.The Conversation

Originally published on October 30th, 2023, in The Conversation.  

Related Posts

'This Is Our Defining Moment': UAW Launches Historic Strikes Against Big Three Automakers, Common Dreams

In two days, 144,000 US autoworkers workers are set to strike, Peoples Dispatch

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Friday, January 6, 2023

Worker strikes and union elections surged in 2022 – could it mark a turning point for organized labor?


Marick Masters, Wayne State University

Workers organized and took to the picket line in increased numbers in 2022 to demand better pay and working conditions, leading to optimism among labor leaders and advocates that they’re witnessing a turnaround in labor’s sagging fortunes.

Teachers, journalists and baristas were among the tens of thousands of workers who went on strike – and it took an act of Congress to prevent 115,000 railroad employees from walking out as well. In total, there have been at least 20 major work stoppages involving at least 1,000 workers each in 2022, up from 16 in 2021, and hundreds more that were smaller.

At the same time, workers at Starbucks, Amazon, Apple and dozens of other companies filed over 2,000 petitions to form unions during the year – the most since 2015. Workers won 76% of the 1,363 elections that were held.

Historically, however, these figures are pretty tepid. The number of major work stoppages has been plunging for decades, from nearly 200 as recently as 1980, while union elections typically exceeded 5,000 a year before the 1980s. As of 2021, union membership was at about the lowest level on record, at 10.3%. In the 1950s, over 1 in 3 workers belonged to a union.

As a labor scholar, I agree that the evidence shows a surge in union activism. The obvious question is: Do these developments manifest a tipping point?

Signs of increased union activism

First, let’s take a closer look at 2022.

The most noteworthy sign of labor’s revival has been the rise in the number of petitions filed with the National Labor Relations Board. In fiscal year 2022, which ended in September, workers filed 2,072 petitions, up 63% from the previous year. Starbucks workers alone filed 354 of these petitions, winning the vast majority of the elections held. In addition, employees at companies historically deemed untouchable by unions, including Apple, Microsoft and Wells Fargo, also scored wins.

The increase in strike activity is also important. And while the major strikes that involve 1,000 or more employees and are tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics arouse the greatest attention, they represent only the tip of the iceberg.

The bureau recorded 20 major strikes in 2022, which is about 25% more than the average of 16 a year over the past two decades. Examples of these major strikes include the recent one-day New York Times walkout, two strikes in California involving more than 3,000 workers at health care company Kaiser Permanente, 2,100 workers at Frontier Communications and 48,000 workers at the University of California.

Since 2021, Cornell University has been keeping track of any labor action, however small, and found that there were a total of 385 strikes in calendar year 2022, up from 270 in the previous year. In total, these reported strikes have occurred in nearly 600 locations in 19 states., signifying the geographic breadth of activism.

Historical parallels

Of course, these figures are still quite low by historical standards.

I believe two previous spikes in the early 20th century offer some clues as to whether recent events could lead to sustained gains in union membership.

From 1934 to 1939, union membership soared from 7.6% to 19.2%. A few years later, from 1941 to 1945, membership climbed from 20% to 27%.

Both spikes occurred during periods of national and global upheaval. The first spike came in the latter half of the Great Depression, when unemployment in the U.S. reached as high as a quarter of the workforce. Economic deprivation and a lack of workplace protections led to widespread political and social activism and sweeping efforts to organize workers in response. It also contributed to the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, which stimulated organizing in the industrial sector.

The second jump came as the U.S. mobilized the economy to fight a two-front war in Europe and Asia. National economic mobilization to support the war led to growth in manufacturing employment, where unions had been making substantial gains. Government wartime policy encouraged unionization as part of a bargain for industrial peace during the war.

Inequality and pandemic heroes

Today’s situation is a far cry from the economic misery of the Great Depression or the social upheaval of a global war, but there are some parallels worth exploring.

Overall unemployment may be near record lows, but economic inequality is higher than it was during the Depression. The top 10% of households hold over 68% of the wealth in the U.S. In 1936, this was about 47%.

In addition, the top 0.1% of wage earners experienced a nearly 390% increase in real wages from 1979 to 2020, versus a meager 28.2% pay hike for the bottom 90%. And employment in manufacturing, where unions had gained a stronghold in the 1940s and 1950s, slipped over 33% from 1979 to 2022.

Another parallel to the two historical precedents concerns national mobilization. The pandemic required a massive response in early 2020, as workers in industries deemed essential, such as health care, public safety and food and agriculture, bore the brunt of its impact, earning them the label “heroes” for their efforts. In such an environment, workers began to appreciate more the protections they derived from unions for occupational safety and health, eventually helping birth much-hyped recent labor trends like the “great resignation” and “quiet quitting.”

A stacked deck

Ultimately, however, the deck is still heavily stacked against unions, with unsupportive labor laws and very few employers showing real receptivity to having a unionized workforce.

And unions are limited in how much they can change public policy or the structure of the U.S. economy that makes unionization difficult. Reforming labor law through legislation has remained elusive, and the results of the 2022 midterms are not likely to make it any easier.

This makes me unconvinced that recent signs of progress represent a turning point.

An ace up labor’s sleeve may be public sentiment. Support for labor is at its highest since 1965, with 71% saying they approve of unions, according to a Gallup poll in August. And workers themselves are increasingly showing an interest in joining them. In 2017, 48% of workers polled said they would vote for union representation, up from 32% in 1995, the last time this question was asked.

Future success may depend on unions’ ability to tap into their growing popularity and emulate the recent wins at Starbucks and Amazon, as well as the successful “Fight for $15” campaign, which since 2012 has helped pass $15 minimum wage laws in a dozen states and Washington, D.C.

The odds may be steep, but the seeds of opportunity are there if labor is able to exploit them.The Conversation

Marick Masters, Professor of Business and Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Wayne State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Why did the ALU's campaign for worker rights resonate with Amazon workers?

Amazon workers took a page in history to write their own story by voting to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. This fulfillment center (JFK8) will be the first unionized Amazon work site in the country. Out of the nearly 6,000 workers there, 2,654 voted for joining the ALU while 2,131 voted against.  ALUs victory is extraordinary considering that up until now, Amazon successfully defeated every single attempted union drive in a US facility.