On the surface, it seems easy to fault striking United Auto Workers employees at the Big Three automakers for demanding a hefty 36% bump in wages, along with sweetened benefits. But everything's relative, including compensation.
I was working in Detroit back when the American auto industry came dangerously close to doing a Thelma-and-Louise off a cliff. At the time, UAW employees made sacrifices to keep the industry afloat, as former President Barack Obama's "auto czar" Steven Rattner notes in a recent New York Times column. Since then, the domestic auto industry has bounced back, posting a record $37 billion profit in 2022. In fact, profits at the Big Three almost doubled between 2013 and 2022. Yet autoworkers have seen relatively little of that windfall in the years since they made concessions to help avoid a domestic auto industry crash-and-burn. And Bloomberg Law's database identifies 23 collective bargaining agreements just in the last year that increased employee pay by more than what the UAW is demanding, Bloomberg Law legal analyst Robert Combs writes.
Rattner cautions that the UAW's demands may be too extreme. Really? Last year, General Motors CEO Mary Barra raked in $29 million, 362 times the median pay of GM workers; Ford CEO Jim Farley took home $21 million, 281 times what the median employee at that company earns, and Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) pocketed $24.8 million, 365 times the average pay of workers at his company.
Talk about extreme.
An oldie, but a goodie: