UAW to GM: Show me a Big 3 auto executive who'd work for our union pay

On Wednesday, the Detroit Free Press, a member of the USA TODAY Network, published an op-ed from GM President Mark Reuss on the UAW strike. United Auto Workers Vice President Mike Booth responded to the piece with a letter to the editor published a day later. That response is republished below.

Wednesday morning, I saw General Motors President Mark Reuss’ op-ed in the Detroit Free Press. Reuss said he is presenting facts. But the facts are on our side.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the situation at GM.

You'll note that Reuss touts the wages of 85% of GM’s workforce. What about the other 15%? We’re fighting for 100% fairness for 100% of our members.

In his piece, Reuss himself says 6% to 10% of GM’s workforce are temps. Temps start at $16.67 an hour. Once a temp actually gets a permanent job, the starting wage is $18 an hour. I don’t know what qualifies as “poverty wages,” but show me a Big Three executive who would work for that pay.

Let’s talk investment. Where do GM’s corporate profits go?

UAW Strikers slow a truck from entering the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.
UAW Strikers slow a truck from entering the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.

Reuss points out that the company has invested more than $77 billion over the past 10 years. However, a GM statement from June says the company has invested $30.5 billion in U.S. manufacturing and parts distribution facilities in the past 10 years. We welcome that investment in the United States, but where's the other $47 billion going?

During the same period, GM made more than $100 billion in North American profits, the vast majority generated from the U.S. market.

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GM employees are working 12-hour days, 7 days a week

Here’s another fact: GM is spending more on stock buybacks than they are on U.S. labor. In a review of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, our research team found that GM has spent more than $21 billion on stock buybacks over the past decade, lavishing Wall Street with the results of our labor. That's not right.

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The idea that GM workers have enough time off doesn’t even pass the smell test. Go talk to a factory worker and see how their work-life balance is these days. Many of our members at GM work mandatory 12-hour days, six to seven days a week, for months on end. That’s the part of the story Mr. Reuss will not tell the public. GM workers spend so much time in the factory, they have no time to spend with their families, to recuperate from the repetition of their jobs, or to enjoy life outside of work.

And when they talk about ending tiers, yes, we’ve made some progress at the bargaining table in eliminating the divisive tiers system. But everyone knows the core “tier” at the Big Three is the tier created in 2007, when workers lost their pensions and post-retirement health care. GM is not addressing that, and that’s not right.

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Finally, Mr. Reuss ends his op-ed by claiming that no one wins in a strike.

This is nonsense.

The truth is, almost everything the labor movement has achieved was won because workers stood together on picket lines against incredible odds and demanded better working conditions and a better way of life from their employers.

Mike Booth
Mike Booth

Look no further than the sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan that started in late 1936. Workers demanded to be treated like human beings by GM and to have a voice in the workplace. After a historic 44-day struggle, in which autoworkers faced down violent thugs paid for by GM, those workers won their dignity and the recognition of their union, the UAW.

Striking is a last resort for workers. Workers strike only when they feel there is no other choice. Our members want to work and to continue building high-quality, American-made vehicles. But they also want a contract that reflects the immense value they bring to General Motors.

Mike Booth is vice president of the United Auto Workers. This column first ran in the Detroit Free Press as a letter to the editor.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: UAW calls out GM over strike: We need more than 'poverty wages'