Tag Archives: members

United Auto Workers leader rejecting lower wages for auto parts makers

The leader of the United Auto Workers union has rejected a new level of lower wages for members who make auto parts ahead of contract talks with automakers that start in the summer.

There have been reports that General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. may propose a new pay level that is lower than the two existing groups.

Speaking recently at the union’s national bargaining convention in Detroit, which sets the agenda for the union’s bargaining efforts with the auto companies and other industries, President Dennis Williams said the UAW already has too many tiers of lower wages.

Williams is under pressure from union members to end a second level of wages that starts around $15 per hour, about half the $28 per hour made by longtime workers.

“I’m thinking they got too many damn tiers now,” said Williams, who received a standing ovation.

His rejection of a lower pay level comes as the current contract between Fiat Chrysler, GM, Ford and the UAW, which represents about 137,000 workers at the three companies, expires in September.

This year’s contract talks are the first to come after the auto industry fully recovered from the Great Recession, and could be contentious as the union seeks a slice of the industry’s billions of dollars in profits. Auto sales are expected to hit nearly 17 million in the U.S. this year, close to historic highs. They fell as low as 10.4 million in 2009.

In his speech, Williams said workers shared in getting the auto companies through bad times and “we must equally share in the good times.”

Many at the convention spoke in favor of pay raises for veteran workers and of ending the second tier. Longtime UAW workers have not had an hourly pay raise since 2007, although they have received hefty annual profit sharing checks. But there’s no guarantee of getting checks every year.

Pay raises are expected this year, and Williams said it would be hard to bridge the gap between the two tiers if both get raises.

But the union “has a history of finding ways to what people perceive to be the impossible,” Williams said.

At a post-convention press conference, Williams said the union was not willing to add work to automaker factories at less than second-tier pay.

A third tier of wages already is in place at several GM factories in the Detroit area for a small number of workers, however. The work may otherwise have gone to Mexico or another country with lower labor costs.

Auto companies, mindful of the recession, are reluctant to increase U.S. labor costs and once again be at a cost disadvantage to foreign companies. They want to reduce labor expenses, contending that their costs already have grown above competitors.

An analysis done by the Center for Automotive Research, a think tank based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, shows that to be true, at least for GM and Ford.

GM’s total hourly labor costs, including wages and benefits, total $58 per hour, followed closely by Ford at $57. Costs for Honda and Toyota are below $50 per hour, the analysis found. Chrysler, with costs totaling $48 per hour, is below Honda and equal to Toyota, but higher than Nissan, Hyundai, BMW and Volkswagen.

Mercedes-Benz had the highest labor costs in the U.S. at $65 per hour, while Volkswagen was the lowest at $38.

Williams also said he wants to keep Detroit companies competitive with foreign automakers.

Facebook expands member options for gender identity

Facebook today (Feb. 13) announced it has expanded the way users can identify gender on their profiles.

The need for the social media giant’s change is bolstered by a new report released today by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in partnership with Gender Spectrum.

In a survey of 10,000 LGBT youth, nearly 10 percent of respondents fall into a “gender-expansive” grouping — underscoring the need for moves such as the one Facebook announced. The report further analyzes the results of a survey of LGBT-identified youth first reported in “Growing Up LGBT in America.” Of the 925 gender-expansive respondents, one-third identified as transgender and two-thirds wrote in their own terms, such as queer, gender-queer, gender fluid and non-binary.

“Over the past few years, a person’s Facebook profile truly has become their online identity, and now Facebook has taken a milestone step to allow countless people to more honestly and accurately represent themselves,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in a news release. “Facebook’s action is one that I hope others heed in supporting individuals’ multifaceted identities.”

The data also reveal that many gender-expansive youth find themselves in an environment that is not supportive of their health and well-being. Less than half of the gender-expansive youth report having an adult in their family they could turn to if they felt worried or sad.

And gender-expansive youth are much less likely to report “definitely fitting in” in their community than their peers. Only 5 percent reported “definitely fitting in,” with 30 percent reporting “definitely not fitting in.”

The report shows that only 4 percent of the gender-expansive youth reported being “very happy,” nearly seven times less than their peers. Nearly one in 10 gender-expansive youth reported being “very unhappy.”

The report also reveals:

• More than four in 10 gender-expansive youth report “frequently” or “often” being called names involving anti-gay slurs and 40 percent report being excluded by peers “frequently” or “often.”

• Nearly half of gender-expansive youth reported experimenting with alcohol and drugs, double the rate of their peers.

• More than 50 percent of gender-expansive youth reported “never participating” in the majority of activities listed in the survey. If it weren’t for after school activities, online LGBT community and school Gay Straight Alliances, gender-expansive youth would not be engaged in activities that build confidence and social skills.

“The rising tide of equality cannot leave anyone behind, and this new report shows that we’ve got to work harder than ever before to make sure that every young person is guaranteed an equal future, no matter their gender identity or expression,” said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Children, Youth and Families Program, and a professional social worker. “These teens have incredible honesty in the way they express themselves, and the caregivers in their lives have a lot to learn from them. It’s up to us to ensure that they have the networks of support and understanding that every child needs to thrive.”

Union membership holds steady in 2013

The nation’s union membership held steady at 11.3 percent last year, but losses among state and government workers suggest an ominous trend for the future of organized labor.

In a turnabout, there are now slightly more union members working for private firms than in government, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. That reverses a five-year trend.

Although the rate of membership among all workers didn’t budge, the overall number of union members grew slightly, rising about 162,000 to nearly 14.5 million.

Unions added about 282,000 new members in the private sector as the economy improved. But that was partly offset by the loss of 118,000 members in the public sector, as state and local governments and public school districts continued to face financial pressure from shrinking budgets.

For decades, the growth of union workers in government has helped compensate for steep losses in manufacturing, construction and other private industries where unions once thrived. The public sector union membership rate of 35 percent remains more than five times higher than that of private sector workers, at 6.7 percent.

But budget pressures have meant layoffs and hiring freezes for many state and local governments. Public unions also have been on the defensive in Wisconsin, Michigan and other states where Republican governors have pushed measures to limit union bargaining rights.

Public sector unions saw their biggest membership losses last year among workers in social assistance programs, administrative and support services, public school teachers and state university employees, according to BLS data.

In Wisconsin, union membership in the public sector fell from 53.4 percent in 2011 to just 37.6 percent in 2013.

“This suggests that the erosion of public sector union coverage reflects the new anti-collective bargaining policies implemented in several states,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

The overall rate of union membership has been steadily declining for decades. The share of workers belonging to unions peaked in the 1950s at about 30 percent, and dropped to about 20 percent by 1983.

The modest increase in union ranks last year follows a steep decline in 2012 that saw the union membership rate sink to its lowest level since the 1930s. The increased unionization among private firms took place largely in construction, health care and the auto industry, as the economy rebounded to create about 2.2 million new jobs.

“It could be that we’ve hit bottom and things are going to turn around,” said John Schmitt, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. “The other possibility is that it’s just a blip and we’ll get back to a slow steady decline in private sector unionization.”

Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members in 2013 earned a median salary of $950 a week, compared to $750 for nonunion workers.

New York continued to have the highest union membership rate at 24.4 percent, while North Carolina had the lowest rate at 3 percent.

California bill challenges Boy Scouts’ policy on gays

The California Senate has approved legislation that would use California’s tax policy in an attempt to pressure the Boy Scouts of America into fully accepting gays.

The bill would make the organization ineligible for nonprofit tax breaks, despite its vote last week to accept openly gay scouts while blocking gays from becoming scout leaders.

Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens says that policy means gays can join the scouts only until they turn 18.

“Equality does not have an expiration date,” he said. “Discrimination should not be subsidized.”

Scouting leaders have objected that the bill would harm local troops that serve 180,000 California youth. Conservative legal aid groups have promised to sue if the measure becomes law on the grounds that it would punish an organization based on its beliefs.

Lara’s SB323 would deny state tax breaks to youth groups that discriminate on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or religious affiliation. It passed the Senate with a 27-9 vote, with the minimum two-thirds majority needed to alter the state’s tax policy.

It now goes to the Assembly. If the bill is eventually signed into law by the governor, the groups would have to pay corporate taxes on donations, membership dues and camp fees while also paying sales tax on food, beverages and homemade items sold at fundraisers.

“Today, more than ever, youth need the character and leadership programs of Scouting. We are disappointed with anything that impacts our ability to serve more youth,” Scouting spokesman Deron Smith said in an email.

He could not estimate how much the scouts might lose if the bill becomes law.

“This bill is about government vilifying our values and abusing its power to penalize, through taxation, those who hold different beliefs and values,” objected Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, which tries to strengthen traditional families.

Lara’s office and the advocacy group Equality California, which sponsored the measure, said it was the first gay rights bill to pass with a two-thirds majority in the state’s history. A similar measure has been introduced in the New York state Senate.

Associated Press writer Tom Verdin contributed to this story.