Auto workers in the United States are on strike for their demand for higher wages. The strike began in Ford Motor Company on 15th August 2023. By 22nd August, auto workers of the other two big automobile companies, namely, General Motors (GM) and Stellantis (a merger the American Fiat Chrysler company and the European PSA group) had joined the strike. The strike is being led by the United Auto Workers (UAW) – a union of all three major automobile companies. It is reported that auto parts distribution centres of GM and Stellantis companies, which supply auto parts to their repairs facilities have also joined the strike.
Although the automobile companies are separately negotiating with their workers and there is some progress reported in terms of improved wage offers from “the Big Three” automakers, autoworkers are not flinching in their demands for a 40 per cent wage increase.
Autoworkers in the U.S. point out that since 2003, they have seen their average hourly wage decline by 30 per cent. Meanwhile, over the past decade, the Big Three automakers have raked in more than $250 billion in profits and rewarded shareholders with tens of billions of dollars in stock buybacks and dividend payouts.
The workers are arguing, justifiably, that when the top management is being rewarded handsomely from the profits, workers’ salaries should at least keep in line with the rising cost of living. For example, the General Motors CEO earned $29 million in 2022, which is 362 times the average wage of workers of the company. The CEO of Stellantis earned $24.8 million or 365 times the salary of the average worker. The CEO of Ford earned $21 million, which is at least 281 times more than the average worker.
Ford and General Motors have proposed wage increases of 20 per cent and Stellantis 21 per cent over the course of a four-year contract. This is well below the demand of the United Auto Workers for a 40 per cent wage increase to make up for years of falling autoworker pay amid rising corporate profits and surging executive compensation.
The prevailing capitalist system is transferring wealth from hundreds of millions of people worldwide to a tiny minority of individuals. In 1970, an average CEO in US had income 20 times that of a middle level worker’s income. By 1989, this ratio had jumped to 59 times and now it has become more than 300 times. Income tax on rich individuals was 70 per cent in 1970 and now its 37 per cent. The U.S. federal government collected 12 per cent of its taxes from corporations in 1970, now it collects only six per cent. Thus the US government has been relentlessly intensifying the degree of exploitation of workers.