Today's News & Commentary – February 6, 2015
The New York Times reports that Mary T. Barra, chief executive of G.M. Motors, has made the decision to give out bonuses to union blue-collar workers for the first time since the company’s bankruptcy in 2009. The bonuses are greater than what the 48,000 union workers had expected in their contract. Each worker will receive up to $9,000 in profit-sharing despite the company’s diminished profits from more than 80 recalls. The payout will help the automobile manufacturer to negotiate a new union contract this summer “without being accused of shortchanging workers for problems they did not cause.” UAW President characterized the bonuses as important to the “long-term relationship” between G.M., the nation’s largest auto company, and its plant workers.
Unemployment numbers continue to encourage economists while the U.S. trade deficit in December increased to its highest level since 2012. The percentage jump was the biggest increase since July 2009 and drastically reduce the estimated gross domestic product of the fourth quarter. However, the government’s monthly report is expected to show that an additional 234,000 nonfarm jobs were added in January 2015, creating the “longest stretch of job gains above 200,000 since 1994.” Economists suggest that the strengthening labor market combined with lower gasoline prices will continue to bolster consumer spending and increase economic growth.
According to Politico, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) has offered to increase compensation to workers, maintain health care benefits, and increase the maximum pension benefit for members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The PMA and the union have been in stagnant negotiations for the past nine months. Although the union has not yet accepted the offer, it has said that it is “extremely close” to finalizing it. Due to the stalled contract negotiations, more than 20,000 ILWU members have been working at the West Coast ports without a contract since June 2014.
Politico also reports that a rival to the UAW Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has declared sufficient membership to participate in a “community engagement” policy. The rival, the American Council of Employees (ACE), hopes the policy will give workers more of a role in shaping plant management. ACE’s claim that it has the support of at least 15% of plant workers is currently being confirmed by Volkswagen. Despite this, UAW 42 has already certified its membership to participate in the policy and has the support of at least 45% of plant workers. If ACE is certified, two different labor groups would meet with management in the same plant.