News & Commentary

October 30, 2023

In today’s News and Commentary, UAW reaches a tentative new contract with Stellantis, and undergraduate student workers at Harvard and University of Oregon voted to form a union.

On the heels of last Wednesday’s success with Ford, the United Auto Workers secured a tentative agreement with Stellantis this weekend. The union will now be solely focused on negotiating a contract with the last of the Big 3 – GM.  The Stellantis agreement mirrors much of the Ford agreement, including 25% general wage increases over the life of the contract, cost-of-living adjustments, and the elimination of tiered wages across plants. Stellantis agreed to add 5,000 new jobs and to reopen a Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant that has been idled since February. Ford’s agreement allows the company to offer an unlimited number of $50,000 buyouts to older workers earning top wages, though the new workers hired can only earn below the top wage for three years – it used to take new workers eight years to reach the top wage. The tentative agreements pause the six-week strike for 2 of the Big 3 until UAW membership votes on whether to ratify. The strike remains in effect and is expanding against GM, with UAW President Shawn Fain ordering a walkout at a Tennessee engine and assembly plant. The Spring Hill, Tennessee plant is GM’s largest in North America, employing nearly 4,000 workers. Retiree pension costs may be causing the hold up in finalizing a contract with GM, as the company has more retirees eligible for an increase than either Ford or Stellantis. This morning, several news outlets have indicated that General Motors and UAW may have reached a tentative agreement. At the time of this post, this news had yet to be confirmed by the company or the union. As it attempts to wrap up the last of the Big 3, the UAW has set its sights on organizing nonunion automakers, particularly in California and the South. Recent organizing efforts in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama have proven unsuccessful, but these historic contract victories may drive southern autoworkers into the arms of the union.

Undergraduate student workers are unionizing from coast to coast. Last Wednesday, undergraduate workers at Harvard and the University of Oregon voted overwhelmingly in favor of unionization. With 99.7% of the vote, the Harvard Undergraduate Workers Union (HGWU) must now elect a bargaining committee and coalesce around top priorities. Their organizing campaign called for greater job stability and improved compensation. At the University of Oregon, 97% of participating student workers voted in favor of union certification. UO administration has already issued a statement recognizing the union and agreeing to cooperate in negotiations. The University of Oregon Student Workers (UOSW) claims it will be the first and largest “wall-to-wall” student worker union in the country, connecting student workers across all workplaces on campus. Similar efforts are ongoing amongst student workers across the California State University’s 23-campus system, the nation’s largest university system.

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