UAW Mack Trucks deal could be a test for worker demands amid Detroit automaker negotiations

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Striking United Auto Workers members from the General Motors Lansing Delta Plant picket in Delta Township, Michigan, on Sept. 29, 2023.

Rebecca Cook | Reuters

DETROIT — United Auto Workers members with Volvo Group-owned Mack Trucks will vote this weekend on a tentative agreement that falls significantly short of what the union is demanding in negotiations currently being held with Detroit automakers.

The Sunday vote by roughly 3,900 union members could test the willingness of workers to ratify a lesser deal compared to raised expectations set by UAW President Shawn Fain for hourly pay increases, equal pay for equal work, inflation protection and, potentially, shorter work weeks.

While Mack Trucks is a separate company and a different part of the union than the section that covers members with General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis, some workers were expecting that they would receive similar increases and benefits as their union brethren at the Detroit automakers.

“In my opinion, the master contract is not horrid. The contract is not bad, but it falls short of what workers were expecting,” said a 12-year Mack Truck employee at the company’s Lehigh Valley Operations. Their reasons included the tentative agreement not meeting expectations, the length of the deal being a year longer than before and the pay increases and bonuses not being enough to offset inflation or reward them for working through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When we were going in, we were following basically like the automakers,” the worker said. They’ve made some improvements, but in my opinion not enough. The tentative agreement with Mack Trucks varies depending on the location and job, but many workers will see a wage increase of roughly 19% over a five-year period, which includes 10% upon ratification, $3,500 in ratification bonuses, increased 401(k), and other benefits. The agreement does not eliminate wage tiers, nor do it include cost-of living adjustments, or shorter workweeks. Detroit automakers have also reduced pay tiers from eight years to at least half — a period Fain, an ex-auto worker, called “inacceptable”. “

Mack and UAW announced their tentative agreement on Monday morning, then released “highlights” to the members later that week. The tentative contract has not been released by either UAW or Mack Trucks ahead of the employee meetings and vote this weekend. Another Mack Trucks employee called the agreement “disgraceful”, and “insulting” in comparison to what they expected and to the current negotiations between UAW leaders and the Detroit automakers (also known as the Big Three). “They’re just rushing this

so they won’t have deal with us when the Big Three negotiate. “

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain during an online broadcast updating union members on negotiations with the Detroit automakers on Oct. 6, 2023.

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UAW declined to comment on the comparison in contracts between Mack Trucks and the Detroit automakers. Mack Trucks President Stephen Roy, in a Monday statement, said the tentative agreement “would deliver significantly increased wages and continue first-class benefits for Mack employees and their families,” while keeping the company competitive.

Another veteran worker at Mack Truck’s Lehigh Valley Operations in Pennsylvania said they were not expecting the same raises and benefits as what’s being negotiated with the Detroit automakers, but they were looking for more than what’s in the current tentative agreement.[tentative agreement]”We pay dues just like the Big Three,” said the roughly 20-year Mack Trucks employee who has worked several positions with the company. “We should at least get the same type (of) negotiation options. “

One of the “options” mentioned by Mack Truck workers was conducting target strikes like what’s happening at the Detroit automakers to fight for additional wages and benefits, specifically, the reinstatement of cost-of-living adjustments to combat inflation.

“My honest opinion, I thought we were going out on strike because there’s no COLA in it,” the worker said. In five years we will be back in the same situation. “

Marick Master, a labor expert and business professor at Wayne State University, Detroit, says it is important to remember that Mack Trucks does not have the same situation as Detroit’s automakers. The problem can arise from inflated union expectations. They get a great deal and everyone will say that they want the same thing. But, the UAW operates in different industries and different segments within the larger industry with different financial considerations. I think this is what’s happening here. “