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New strike study shows highest walkout rate in two decades

The United Auto Workers strike is only the latest in a year that has seen a historic number of employee walkouts.
New strike study shows highest walkout rate in two decades
Posted at 3:54 PM, Sep 19, 2023

The chants are straightforward, and the demands — in the eyes of those making them — are reasonable: Bump pay for autoworkers to match the 40% pay raises they claim their CEOs have gotten over the last four years. But for some of those in the crowd, like 30-year auto industry employee Christina Jolly, the chants are driven by deeper nuance.

"I've seen a decline. I've seen the respect go away. The prior administration basically taught the auto companies how to treat us. So we just want our fair share. We're not being greedy. We just want our earned, our much-deserved dignity and respect," said Jolly. 

The United Autoworkers strike is only the latest in a year that has seen a historic number of employee walkouts. First, it was UPS, then Hollywood.

Now, it's the blue-collared auto workers in a united front that experts say emboldens others to follow suit.

"From the workers' point of view, it's a matter of catching up and of protecting their jobs in the future. For the car companies it's a matter of remaining competitive with non-UAW companies, including non-U.S. car companies who have gained a lot of market share in the last generation and could gain even more if the agreement makes our companies even less competitive. Both sides are locked into a battle that each side thinks are essential to their future," said Erik Gordon, a professor at University of Michigan Ross School of Business. 

SEE MORE: UAW and carmakers continue talks with no sign of end to strike

These battles are not new for United Auto Workers. In the last 30 years, the union has been involved in more than 60 work stoppages that include 1,000 workers or more according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. And while workers may see this as the bare minimum of what they deserve, others see it as unrealistic

"These are the type of demands that aren't grounded in economic reality, and if they were forced upon these companies, what it would mean is that they're going to have to shutter their operations and so no one wins in a situation where unrealistic demands mean companies can no longer operate, so that's what concerns us here at the U.S. Chamber," said Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president.

Some of the automakers at the center of the strike echo these concerns, saying pay increases of this size would lead to higher consumer prices, devaluing domestic vehicles in the face of foreign competition.

But to those behind the chants, it's about the food they can put on the table as they possibly set it for more strikes down the road.

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