Some 13,000 members of the United Auto Workers union went on strike today against all three of the major U.S. automakers, seeking pay raises and better benefits from Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis.
But to hear the auto companies tell it, they’re doing the best they can by their workers, despite making record profits.
Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors spoke with CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich, who immediately hit Barra with the question every auto worker was probably dying to ask:
“The union is demanding, asking, for a 40 percent wage increase over four years. They are asking for that in part because they say CEOs like yourself leading the Big Three are making those kinds of pay increases over the course of the last four years. You have seen a 34 percent pay increase in your salary, you make almost $30 million. Why should your workers not get the same type of pay increases that you are getting leading the company?”
“For the last several years that resulted in record profit-sharing for our employees,” Barra added. “You have to look at the whole compensation package, not only 20 percent increase in gross wage but also the profit-sharing aspect of it, world-class health care and several other features. So we think we have a very competitive offer on the table, and that’s why we want to get back there and get this done.”
Yurkevich then inquired, “If you are getting a 34 percent pay increase over four years, and you are offering 20 percent to employees right now, do you think that’s fair?”
The General Motors CEO replied, “Well, I think when you look at the overall structure and the fact that 92 percent is based on performance, and you look at what we have been doing of sharing in the profitability when the company does well, I think we have a very compelling offer on the table and that’s the focus I have right now.”
That prompted Yurkevich to ask, “Let’s talk about profits. Because in 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy, was bailed out by the U.S. government, workers made concessions to keep their jobs, to keep the company alive. Why shouldn’t workers be entitled to what they gave up 15 years ago, especially since GM is making record profits right now?”
Clearly uncomfortable, Barra responded:
“We have to remember we are a cyclical business … no compensation system, I think, anywhere, is the same as it was, you know, 15, 20 years ago. So we have to look where we are. We have to look at the future. At General Motors, we want to recognize the hard work of our manufacturing employees. We have a historic deal on the table … we want to, you know, finish the negotiations, problem-solve, and get people back to work.”
Here’s a thought, Mary: Maybe if you took only $15 million a year in salary, more of your workers could have a decent raise and better benefits.