DETROIT (WXYZ) — Contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers union and the Detroit Big Three begin Thursday.
Wednesday, in a break from tradition, UAW President Shawn Fain announced there would be no public handshake ceremony with the companies. Instead, he traveled around to three Detroit-area auto plants to meet with UAW members.
7 Action News was there as Fain arrived at General Motors’ Factory ZERO.
“We’re shaking hands with people that this is all about. This is their agreement. It’s their contract. They haven’t been treated right over the years. It’s time for them to get their justice,” Fain said.
GM employee Cheryl Page was delighted to shake Fain’s hand.
“I’ve never met any other president before one-on-one, so this is different,” Page said. “I feel included. And we talk a lot about inclusion, so I feel included.”
She hopes certain topics are addressed during the negotiations.
“I’m hoping to get some of those things we lost during the bankruptcy. We lost a lot,” Page said.
Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University, has studied the UAW for years and written extensively on unions and labor relations. He thinks the UAW is trying to send a message during the change of tradition.
“We’re going to be more insistent in our demands and we’re willing to use the powers we have including the ultimate one of a strike in order to receive our ends,” Masters said of what he thinks the UAW's strategy could be. “I wouldn’t read more into it than that. I think what’s really going to matter is how creative they are in finding solutions when they get to the table.”
He says what he thinks really matters is how creative they are when they get to the table.
“I think regardless of who would have been at the leadership helm at the UAW, there would have been a good chance of a strike because these issues are just very, very difficult,” Masters said. “The companies are under enormous pressure to invest a lot. It’s more expensive to invest because the cost of capital has gone up and the competition is relentless.”
Masters has a prediction of how negotiations could go.
“If the parties are willing to forego the rhetoric and focus on the issues, I think they can find a path to success. But if they’re not, if they want a pound of flesh, then there will be a strike,” he said.
Thursday, negotiations begin with Stellantis. Talks continue Friday with Ford Motor Company, and GM is expected to begin next Tuesday.