Unionized Auto Workers Are Taking on a Three-Headed Behemoth of Big Capital

We could also be days away from the most important U.S. auto employee strike in years. The contracts between the United Auto Employees (UAW) and the “Large Three” automakers (Ford, Normal Motors (GM) and Stellantis) expire on September 14. The agreements cowl practically 150,000 staff on the three companies. To date, information reviews indicate that the union and the auto giants stay far aside in negotiations. A whopping 97 percent of UAW members have licensed a strike.

The demands of autoworkers are clear. They embody eliminating wage and profit tiers, acquiring double-digit wage will increase, the restoration of price of dwelling changes, outlined profit pensions for all staff, reestablishing retiree medical advantages, the appropriate to strike over plant closures, new protections for staff if a plant shuts down, and extra. Looming over the negotiations is the accelerating transition to electrical autos (EVs). Auto staff are in a historic struggle to make sure that EV manufacturing comes with high-quality union jobs.

The auto corporations will not be hurting financially. UAW President Shawn Fain has confused the “record profits” of the Large Three, claiming the businesses took in $21 billion in income throughout the first half of 2023 alone and an astounding $250 billion over the previous decade. Their CEOs have seen their “pay spike 40% on common over the past 4 years,” says Fain.

The auto staff’ struggle shouldn’t be theirs alone. In organizing to win substantial positive factors for his or her members towards corporations which are awash in billions in revenue, victory for the UAW will help elevate the wage ground for different staff and set an inspiring instance of what militant commerce unionism can obtain. It may well assist flip the tide on the pattern the place staff create ever-rising income for firms, however by no means appear to obtain their simply share.

However there’s one other sense by which the UAW’s struggle is everybody else’s struggle. In taking up the Large Three automakers, auto staff are fairly actually confronting a three-headed behemoth whose management and governance are carefully embedded and immediately interlocked inside a wider company energy community that stretches nicely past the auto business.

A Truthout evaluation of prime executives and board administrators — in different phrases, an evaluation of the few dozen individuals who sit on the heights of energy inside the Large Three — reveals an online of representatives from highly effective companies and business associations who for many years have been on the forefront of preventing unions, decreasing staff’ dwelling requirements and awarding big government pay.

It shouldn’t be shocking that the Large Three executives and administrators are taking part in hardball with autoworkers. Most of the individuals who run the present at GM, Ford and Stellantis are the identical individuals who have overseen personal fairness corporations like KKR as they revenue from slashing jobs. They’re the identical individuals who assist run ruthlessly anti-union empires like Amazon and Walmart. Their ranks embody leaders of business teams just like the Enterprise Roundtable, which lobbies tooth-and-nail to defend company pursuits and leisure giants like Disney who’re pitted towards putting actors and writers. They’re acculturated to, and merchandise of, a regime of enterprise rule that lavishes CEOs with big pay and makes use of billions in income for dividend payouts and inventory buybacks quite than larger wages and extra advantages for staff.

“We’re right here to return collectively to prepared ourselves for the warfare towards our one and solely true enemy: multibillion greenback companies and employers that refuse to provide our members their fair proportion,” UAW President Fain mentioned in a March speech. Whereas Fain was talking of the auto giants, his description of the “enemy” additionally applies to the various “multibillion greenback companies” outdoors the auto business over which executives and administrators from the Large Three additionally preside.

Normal Motors CEO Is Key Ally of Disney Boss

Take Mary Barra, for example, the chair and CEO of Normal Motors. She’s been the highest government at helm of the auto big for practically a decade now. In 2022, she raked in nearly $29 million in complete compensation in 2022 and over $81 million from 2020 to 2022. In accordance with firm filings, the CEO to median employee pay ratio at GM is an astounding 362 to 1.

However Barra additionally holds one other highly effective function: She’s been a board director of the Walt Disney Firm since 2017.

Disney, after all, is the leisure mega-corporation that oversees a movie, tv and streaming empire, in addition to a series of famed resorts and amusement parks throughout the globe. Its flagship park, Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is the largest single-site employer in the whole U.S.

Disney’s current file on labor and inequality is checkered. Amid inflation and skyrocketing housing prices in Orlando and Anaheim, some Disney staff have needed to sleep in their cars. Earlier this 12 months, the corporate opposed union calls for for considerably larger wages at Disney World, with a whopping 96 percent of workers rejecting an preliminary provide. (The 2 sides reached an agreement as stress ramped on the corporate). Round that very same time, Disney’s returning CEO, Bob Iger, introduced that Disney was slashing 7,000 jobs, or 3 p.c of its world workforce. This was to the delight of Wall Road buyers.

Months later, Iger emerged as an business villain, emblematic of Hollywood’s company greed, for 1000’s of putting writers and actors. The Disney boss known as the strikers “disruptive,” saying of their calls for: “There’s a degree of expectation that they’ve that’s simply not real looking.”

In the meantime, Iger vacuumed in round $130 million from Disney between 2019 and 2022, in keeping with firm filings.

As a Disney director, GM’s Mary Barra is instrumental within the company’s governance, together with with choices like bringing again Iger. She sits on the board’s compensation committee, which oversees Iger’s bloated pay.

With Barra’s governing function at Disney and her shut relationship with Iger, putting actors and writers, and auto staff who might strike, are up towards related opponents who’re allied in overseeing key nodes of company rule.

Certainly, CNBC reports that Iger and Barra are “notably shut.” Simply weeks after Disney’s mass firing of 1000’s of staff, Barra wrote a fawning tribute to Iger when he appeared on the duvet of Time journal’s particular concern on the world’s most influential folks.

And whereas it’s nothing in comparison with the tens of millions she rakes in at GM, Barra additionally income handsomely from her director function at Disney, the place she rakes in a whole bunch of 1000’s of {dollars} a 12 months. In accordance with Barra’s most up-to-date disclosure, she at the moment owns practically $1.4 million in Disney inventory.

To prime it off, Barra additionally chairs the Enterprise Roundtable, a robust CEO lobbying group with a long time hostility to unions and a dedication to weakening labor legal guidelines.

Large Three Executives and Administrators at Anti-Union Corporations

If Barra represents the broader company tradition of big CEO compensation and antagonism with labor, so do a slew of different Large Three executives and administrators who’ve helped oversee firm operations which are synonymous with union busting and mistreating staff.

For instance, Mark Stewart, who’s Stellantis’s chief working officer in North America with a central role in firm negotiations with the UAW, beforehand was the vp of operations at Amazon in 2017 and 2018.

Stewart’s function at Amazon was vital, and his managerial prerogatives had been pitted towards staff’ pursuits. In accordance with his Stellantis biography, Stewart was Amazon’s “lead government for buyer achievement throughout 200 operations amenities in North America,” and answerable for “overseeing operations, procurement, development and engineering with groups devoted to pursuing automation, synthetic intelligence and superior robotics and conveyance.”

Employee tales of hyper monitoring, office accidents and mistreatment had been reported throughout Stewart’s tenure. Amazon is a notoriously anti-union company with a status for union busting.

Stewart, who has had harsh words for union auto staff, lately purchased one in every of Detroit’s largest mansions for practically $5 million, and he’s confronted scrutiny over partying in Mexico, the place he has a second home, throughout contract negotiations.

Three administrators of Large Three auto corporations have backgrounds with one other poster baby for union busting and for holding down the wage floor: Walmart. GM Director Joanne Crevoiserat held a senior role at Walmart from 2005 to 2007, whereas Stellantis Director Wan Ling Martello was a senior executive at Walmart from 2005 to 2011, together with government vp of worldwide ecommerce. GM Director Thomas Schoewe served as government vp and chief monetary officer of Walmart from 2000 to 2011.

Schoewe has a historical past with one other firm with a poor file on staff’ rights: The personal fairness behemoth KKR, the place he beforehand served as a director. GM’s Lead Unbiased Director Patricia Russ additionally at the moment serves on the KKR board. Amongst different issues, KKR was one of many corporations that drove Toys “R” Us into bankruptcy and left tens of 1000’s of staff unemployed. It additionally owns Refresco, the world’s largest unbiased bottling firm, which till lately had lengthy stalled on a contract for unionized staff in its New Jersey plant.

There’s extra. GM Director Linda R. Gooden governs Home Depot because it fights unionization. Stellantis’s Wan Ling Martello directs Uber because it resists workers’ rights. Ford’s John C. Might is the chairman and CEO of Deere & Firm, which confronted a huge strike in 2021 over wages and different points. GM Director Jonathan McNeill is a former executive on the fiercely anti-union corporations Lyft and Tesla.

Large Auto Firm CEO Pay Shouldn’t Be a Shock

Overseeing the large CEO pay for the Large Three auto giants are their boards of administrators. Along with Barra’s $81 million from 2020 to 2022 (and greater than $200 million since 2014), Ford CEO Jim Farley was given over $55 million from 2020 to 2022 (a part of that point which he wasn’t but CEO and was thus paid much less). Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares was compensated nearly €23.5 million in 2022 alone, which could have helped him pay for his classic car assortment.

Whereas obscene to many, these huge payouts to auto bosses are much less shocking once we take a look at how Large Three administrators bathe exorbitant CEO pay inside different corporations they direct. For instance:

  • GM Director Judith Miscik has additionally been a board director of Morgan Stanley since 2014. Morgan Stanley’s board has compensated CEO James Gorman with over $103 million from 2020 to 2022.
  • GM Director Wesley G. Bush has been a board director of tech big Cisco since 2019. Cisco’s board has given CEO Charles H. Robbins around $77 million from 2020 to 2022. Bush sits on Cisco’s compensation committee, which oversees government pay.
  • GM Director Joseph Jimenez can be the lead director of Procter and Gamble, which has paid CEO Jon Moeller nearly $40 million since 2021, when he turned CEO.
  • Ford Director Jon M. Huntsman Jr. additionally sits on the board of Chevron, which paid CEO Mike Wirth over $75 million from 2020 to 2022. Huntsman sits on the board’s “Administration Compensation” committee.

The checklist might go on, however it all suggests a bigger fact: The folks upholding big CEO pay on the Large Three are the identical folks doing it at different companies, and the struggle towards CEO pay within the auto business on the expense of staff is interwoven with the identical struggle elsewhere.

Interlocks With Militarism and Fossil Fuels

The heights of energy among the many company auto giants are additionally carefully interlocked with the military-industrial complicated and top weapons producers who depend upon astronomical U.S. army budgets that swallow up funding which may in any other case go towards addressing hardships of unemployed and low-wage working folks.

GM CEO Mary Barra herself served on the board of Normal Dynamics, the fifth-biggest U.S. protection firm, from 2011 to 2017, throughout which she was compensated within the millions. GM Director Thomas Schoewe at the moment serves as a director of Northrop Grumman, the third-biggest U.S. protection firm. GM Director Wesley G. Bush is the previous head of Northrop Grumman, serving as CEO till 2018 and chairman till 2019. One other GM director, Linda R. Good, is the retired government vp of Info Methods and International Options at Lockheed Martin, the top U.S. protection firm.

GM’s closest interlock with the U.S. safety state could also be Judith “Jami” Miscik, who’s served on the GM board since 2011. From 2009 to 2022, she held leadership roles, together with co-CEO and vice chairman with Kissinger Associates, the secretive consultancy agency began by former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, who many imagine to be guilty of war crimes. Furthermore, Miscik served as deputy director for Intelligence on the CIA from 2002 to 2005, the place, by some accounts, she helped present phony intelligence that paved the way in which for the unlawful U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Miscik additionally serves as vice chairman of the Council on International Relations, the influential overseas coverage institution assume tank.

Alongside their ties to weapons corporations, Large Three administrators even have intensive ties to grease and gasoline corporations, fossil gasoline utilities and chemical corporations, which they personally revenue from at the same time as auto corporations transfer evermore towards EV manufacturing.

Ford Director and former Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. sits on the board of Large Oil big Chevron, whereas Ford Director William E. Kennard till recently sat on the board of Duke Power, one of many worst-polluting utilities. Stellantis Director Ann Godbehere sits on the board of one other oil behemoth, Shell, and she or he additionally beforehand directed the scandal-ridden mining big Rio Tinto. GM irector Linda Gooden has served as a director for the gasoline utility Washington Fuel & Gentle for the previous decade.

GM Director Wesley G. Bush sits on the board of chemical substances big Dow, which has paid out numerous settlements lately for its polluting actions, whereas Director Jan Tighe sits on the board of one other large chemical firm, Huntsman Company, which has paid penalties and settlements round points that embody, lately, alleged violations of its Clear Water Act allow limits for pollutant discharges.

All this has simply scratched the floor across the methods by which the highly effective folks behind the Large Three are embedded inside wider networks of capital. Additionally they oversee tech giants, actual property titans, pharmaceutical juggernauts, and extra.

To make certain, it’s the norm for executives and administrators at large companies to have related interlocks as these on the auto giants. On the similar time, naming particular names, and making concrete connections, within the wider community of the highly effective individuals who run the Large Three helps make clear what staff are up towards and brings to gentle shared struggles.

Whether or not you’re an actor or author on strike to save lots of your career, an Amazon or Residence Depot employee dreaming of a union, a laid-off Toy “R” Us employee offended at how Wall Road gutted your job otherwise you’re simply enraged over skyrocketing CEO pay, you’ve gotten frequent floor with auto staff and the forces they’re up towards.

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