As UAW, automakers see 'slow' progress in talks, how could a prolonged strike affect everyday Americans?

Empty parking lot at Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne amid UAW strike
Empty parking lot at Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne amid UAW strike Photo credit Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

DETROIT (WWJ) – Three days after union members walked off the job in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri, UAW President Shawn Fain says “progress is slow” as negotiations continue with the Detroit Three automakers.

Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and MSNBC Sunday morning, Fain said the union was meeting with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis representatives on Sunday.

But he noted “I don’t really want to say we’re closer,” as the union still feels the automakers aren’t coming close to the offers they’re hoping for.

In particular, Fain cited record profits automakers have seen in recent years, leading to large paydays for CEOs.

“We’ve asked for 40 percent pay increases. And the reason we asked for 40 percent pay increases is because in the last four years alone, the CEO pay went up 40 percent. They’re already millionaires,” he said.

He called it “insulting” that GM CEO Mary Barra said her $29 million salary is “justified” by her performance.

“No it’s not,” Fain said on CBS. “It’s justified by the performance of the worker, on the backs of the workers and paying them poverty wages.”

Fain’s focus on CEO pay is part of a growing trend of labor unions citing the wealth gap between workers and the top bosses to bolster demand for better pay and working conditions.

While no apparent progress was made in negotiation talks over the weekend, the union could soon call on more workers to “stand up and strike.”

On Friday Ford said it had to temporarily lay off about 600 workers in Michigan as a result of the strike, but Fain and union leaders see it more as a “bargaining chip.”

Speaking live on WWJ Sunday afternoon, University of Michigan-Flint economics professor Chris Douglas said the longer the strike goes on, the more it will impact not just the auto industry, but other facets of the economy and society.

“You’re in the market to buy a new car, you might find that inventories are completely depleted because they still have not recovered to where they were before the pandemic. They were slowly recovering in 2022 and 2023,” he said. “If you’re in the market to, say, get your car repaired, you might notice a shortage of parts. Supply chains have been disrupted.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images