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.