Biden urges automakers, UAW to make 'a fair agreement'

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday called for union autoworkers and Detroit’s Big Three automakers to come together on a new agreement before their contacts expire next month.

“I’m asking all sides to work together to forge a fair agreement,” Biden said in a statement as talks continue between the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Ford, General Motors and Stellantis’ Chrysler brand.

“The UAW helped create the American middle class, and as we move forward in this transition to new technologies, the UAW deserves a contract that sustains the middle class,” Biden said in the statement released by the White House.

The union represents 150,000 U.S. hourly workers at the three automakers and has not ruled out striking at all of them if new contracts are not reached by a Sept. 14 deadline.

UAW President Shawn Fain briefed Biden last month on the negotiations and met with U.S. lawmakers as the union pushes for higher wages and benefits. He has also criticized some of the Biden administration’s electric vehicle policies, and the union so far has not endorsed Biden’s re-election bid.

Biden, a Democrat, campaigned on union support and has weighed in on labor talks in the railroad industry and other sectors.

Addressing climate change is also a key part of his agenda. “I support a fair transition to a clean-energy future,” he said on Monday. He said automakers should ensure that “transitions are fair and look to retool, reboot, and rehire in the same factories and communities at comparable wages, while giving existing workers the first shot to fill those jobs.”

UAW is seeking to include workers at joint venture vehicle battery plants in its contracts.

Stellantis, in a statement, said it “remains committed to working constructively and collaboratively with the UAW to negotiate a new agreement that balances the concerns of our 43,000 employees with our vision for the future.”

Representatives for the UAW, Ford and GM did not respond to requests for comment. Shares of the automakers were near flat on Monday.

A strike at any of the automakers would hit earnings by about $400 million to $500 million per week of production, Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner said in a research note on Monday.

The union’s requests also carry costs due to its requested wage increases, cost-of-living adjustments and elimination of the tiered wage system, Rosner noted.

Deutsche Bank estimated total incremental costs to the three automakers combined would be $3.6 billion in the first year and total $23 billion in the four years of the contract.


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