News & Commentary

September 26, 2023

John Fry

John Fry is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, Ford hits pause on a new EV plant; Canadian auto workers turn to GM; UAW victories could benefit non-union workers; and Kaiser Permanente workers authorize a potential strike.

Ford has paused the construction of a Michigan factory that will make batteries for electric vehicles, claiming concerns about its “ability to competitively operate the plant.” United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain decried the move as a “barely-veiled threat” amid UAW’s strike at Ford and other automakers. Among other demands, striking workers are seeking guarantees that the workers who build the next generation of electric vehicles will enjoy the same pay and benefits as current UAW members. Backlash to a Chinese company’s ties to the new plant may also be a factor in Ford’s decision.

Canadian auto workers have shifted their focus to General Motors after striking a deal with Ford. This pattern-bargaining approach, in which the union agrees to a contract with one employer and then seeks similar contracts with other employers, may be a sign of things to come in UAW’s strike in the United States. As Swap reported on Sunday, UAW has stopped expanding its strike at Ford plants and has described recent negotiations with Ford as productive.

UAW members’ wins at the bargaining table could benefit non-union auto workers in the South, NPR reports. Low wages and low union density are among the main reasons why automakers like Nissan and Hyundai operate factories in Southern states like Mississippi and Alabama. However, a new UAW contract with big wage gains would likely pressure these companies to raise wages in order to make unionization less appealing to their workforce. This rising-tide effect in the labor market will remain important as automakers build non-union electric vehicle plants in the South.

Workers at healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente are poised to strike next week. Emphasizing staffing shortages that they argue jeopardize patient care, multiple unions have voted to authorize strikes at the company from October 4-6. If a deal is not reached, it could be the largest strike in healthcare history. The parties remain far apart on issues such as the company’s wage floor.

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