Durbin Urges UAW And The Big Three To Negotiate In Good Faith To Reach An Agreement & Avoid A Strike

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today in a speech on the Senate floor urged the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Big Three Automakers—General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis—to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement before this Thursday, September 14, to prevent a strike that will cost billions of dollars and impact 150,000 autoworkers.  On July 12, UAW and the Big Three Automakers began contract negotiations to determine their next four-year labor deal, but have not yet come to an agreement.

“Since it was founded nearly 90 years ago, UAW has fought for—and won—victories that have helped to strengthen America’s working families.  UAW has won better pay for its members, safer working conditions, employer-funded pensions, health insurance, educational benefits—and more.  UAW helped to allow autoworkers and their families to buy homes, take vacations, send their children to college, and retire with dignity,” Durbin said.

“But that legacy is in danger.  Over the last 20 years, autoworkers have faced dozens of plant closures, lost jobs, wage cuts, and contract concessions.  In 2009, UAW made major concessions in its contracts to help these same automakers receive government assistance.  This included job security provisions, cost-of-living adjustments, and financing for retiree health care… [Since then,] automakers have reaped billions in profits.  But these benefits have not been passed down to workers, and UAW members have seen their wages and standards of living suffer,”Durbin continued.

During his speech, Durbin cited the stark contrast between the salaries of the Big Three CEOs versus that of an autoworker.  Decades ago, the ratio between CEO and median worker pay was around 20-to-1.  Today, it hovers around 300-to-1.  Stellantis, General Motors, and Ford reported collective profits of nearly $250 billion between 2013 and 2022, and a combined profit of $21 billion alone in the first six months of 2023.  In 2007, the average wage for workers at Chrysler (now Stellantis), Ford, and General Motors was $28 per hour, while the starting wage was $19.36 an hour, equivalent to $28.59 in today’s dollar.  Today, the starting wage for auto workers at the Big Three is $18.04 an hour—more than $10 lower than what starting wages would be if they had just kept up with inflation since 2007.

During his speech, Durbin stated that 61 GM, Ford, and Stellantis plants have closed or idled since 2003, and thousands of jobs have been lost.  In February, Stellantis laid off 1,350 workers at the idled Belvidere Assembly Plant in Belvidere, Illinois.

“This was devastating, not just to the families and their workers, but to the community, and I hope Stellantis will reconsider its decision,” said Durbin. “Workers are fed up.  Earlier this year, autoworkers struggled to breathe in factories across Illinois and other states, due to unprecedented wildfire smoke from Canada.  Now they are saying in this negotiation: enough.”

Durbin then encouraged corporations to invest in electric vehicles while also making sure they are being produced by union labor.  Thanks to President Biden and Congressional Democrats, Congress has made critical investments in clean energy—including the production of electric vehicles.  But autoworkers should not be left behind in the transition to electric vehicles.

Durbin concluded his speech by urging UAW and the Big Three to come to an agreement—before midnight on Thursday—when contracts covering 150,000 UAW members at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis will expire.

“This agreement must be fair to workers, and include a restoration of the benefits that autoworkers sacrificed more than a decade ago to keep these families afloat.  And Stellantis must reconsider the closure of the Belvidere Assembly Plant, and welcome back the workers it laid off in February,”Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is availablehere.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is availablehere.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the floor is availablehere for TV Stations.