The president of the United Auto Workers union is taking a hard line in collective wage bargaining talks with all of Detroit’s Big Three automakers before current contracts expire on Sep. 14.
But on Tuesday, Shawn Fain took to Facebook Live to call out one company in particular for its proposal: Stellantis, the manufacturer of brands like Jeep, Ram and Dodge.
Fain called a low-ball contract offer by Stellantis a “slap in the face” and “an insult to our members’ hard work over the last four years.”
“Management’s chosen to spit in our faces,” the UAW president continued.
Stellantis and the UAW appear to be far apart in their positions.
The union, among other demands, is asking for a 40% pay increase over the next four years, a reduction in working hours, and an end to a tiered-pay system that compensates veteran employees significantly more than new hires. The union also wants workers at the automakers’ EV plants—joint ventures with foreign companies that the Big Three claim are legally separate entities—to be covered by a new UAW contract.
Rather than eliminate pay tiers, Stellantis is instead proposing the creation of new ones, Fain said on Tuesday.
The carmaker is also trying to target absenteeism at its U.S. factories, which it blames for $217 million in lost revenue over the past two years. A Stellantis proposal, dated July 27, would tie wage increases and other benefits to attendance, reports The Detroit News. The company also wants the right to make some bargaining changes without ratification from rank-and-file union members.
Fain even called out Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares personally. Fain noted the “pathetic irony” of Stellantis’s focus on absenteeism when Tavares “can’t even show up to bargaining.” (Tavares has previously said that he wanted his North American executives to handle the negotiations, and suggested he would be “more useful to the organization” elsewhere).
In a theatrical gesture, Fain threw the offer into a nearby trash can. “That’s where it belongs—in the trash—because that’s what it is,” he said.
Neither Stellantis nor the UAW immediately responded to a request for comment.
Fain defeated the incumbent president of the UAW earlier this year, promising a tougher approach to negotiations.
Normally, the UAW negotiates with one automaker, which then becomes the template for contracts with the other two. This time around, the UAW is negotiating with all three, and thus could launch a strike against all of them.
The U.S. is seeing a broader wave of labor organization and industrial action, as tight job markets are giving employees more leverage to demand better conditions and pay amid ongoing high inflation.
Hollywood writers and actors are on strike demanding better residual payments and protection from A.I., among other demands. The writers strike is now past its 100th day.
California hotel workers have also staged walkouts to demand better pay and protections, as well as a promise to stop using e-Verify, the system used to check immigration eligibility for workers.
Some negotiations have succeeded in averting strikes. In July, the Teamsters–the U.S.’s largest union– agreed a new contract with UPS that would increase wages to as much as $170,000 annually, end a tiered wage system, and add air-conditioning to trucks. The deal averts a strike that could have disrupted as much as a quarter of all package deliveries.
Stellantis was formed from the 2021 merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and France’s PSA Group. It’s the third-largest automaker by revenue, ranked behind Volkswagen and Toyota Motor on Fortune’s 2023 Global 500 list.
Stellantis reported $12 billion in net income in the first half of the year, a 37% increase from the same period in 2022. The carmaker is currently conducting a $1.7 billion share buyback program, which it hopes to complete by the end of the year. Stellantis shares are up 30.1% for the year.