What Do The Autoworker Unions Want From The Big Three
Free Lunch by The Peak
Tue, October 10, 2023
Podchat Summary

Episode Description: Negotiating Auto Worker Contracts in the Era of Electric Vehicles

In this episode, economist Jim Stanford, director of the Center for Future Work, delves into the negotiations between auto workers and the big three car makers in Canada and the US. Stanford sheds light on the key issues at stake, such as wages, pension improvements, and protecting workers during the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

Stanford explains that while the shift to EVs will inevitably lead to job losses in the auto supply sector, the impact on auto assembly plants will be minimal. However, he emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the new jobs in the EV industry are of high quality, well-paying, and unionized.

The discussion also touches upon the competition between unionized automakers and non-union automakers like Tesla, as well as the potential challenges of organizing the new EV supply chain. Stanford points out that labor costs are not a significant factor in this competition, as they constitute only a small percentage of the total cost of producing a vehicle.

Comparing the experiences of the Canadian auto workers union, Unifor, and the United Auto Workers in the US, Stanford notes that Unifor was able to reach an agreement with the car makers without resorting to a strike, while the UAW is still on strike. He attributes this difference to the historical relationship between Unifor and the companies, as well as recent corruption scandals within the UAW.

Lastly, Stanford addresses the tension between the environmental transition and the interests of labor. He argues that both can be pursued simultaneously, and that unions are increasingly recognizing the need to address climate change and ensure a fair and balanced transition to a low-carbon economy for workers.

Original Show Notes
A lot of the big trends in the economy right now are converging in the auto sector, and the negotiations over new contracts for autoworkers at the Big Three carmakers: Ford, GM, and Stellantis.  You’ve got the conflict between workers and employers over wages, and some evidence that workers may have more leverage than they’ve had in a long time. You’ve got the clean energy transition, with the rise of EVs and what that means for the industry and people who work in it. And you’ve got the push to manufacture more things onshore again, and preserve an industry that’s been an engine for middle-class jobs for decades. On today’s show Jim Stanford joins us to explain how all these issues are playing a role in the negotiations between Unifor and UAW and the Big Three, and what autoworkers want to see in their new contracts. Jim is an economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work, and spent 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy for the union formerly known as the Canadian Auto Workers (and now known as Unifor).  Note: This episode was recorded prior to the Unifor strike at the GM facilities in Ontario. ----- More episodes of Free Lunch by The Peak: https://readthepeak.com/shows/free-lunch Follow Taylor on Twitter: @taylorscollon Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahbartnicka Subscribe to The Peak's daily business newsletter: https://readthepeak.com/b/the-peak/subscribe
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