- UAW members are preparing to vote on a labor agreement with Volvo Group-owned Mack Trucks.
- These workers hope they can get benefits similar to those their colleagues expect from Detroit automakers.
- But Mack Trucks — which is offering 19 percent pay raises, ratification bonuses, increased corporate 401(k) payments and other perks — isn’t in the same position as the Big Three automakers.
Striking United Auto Workers members picket the General Motors Lansing Delta plant in Delta Township, Michigan, September 29, 2023.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters
DETROIT — United Auto Workers members at Volvo Group-owned Mack Trucks will vote this weekend on a tentative agreement that falls significantly short of what the union is demanding in ongoing negotiations with Detroit automakers.
Sunday’s vote by about 3,900 union members could test workers’ willingness to ratify a deal less than the high expectations set by UAW President Shawn Fain for hourly wage increases, salary equality for equal work, protection against inflation and, potentially, shorter working weeks.
Although Mack Trucks is a separate company and a different part of the union than that which covers members of General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis, some workers expected to receive raises and benefits similar to those of their fellow manufacturers’ unions. Detroit automobiles.
“In my opinion, the main contract is not horrible. It’s not a bad contract, but it’s far from what we expected,” a 12-year Mack Truck employee told CNBC in the company operations in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.
The worker and several other Mack Trucks UAW members who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from the union or company said they plan to vote against the deal. Their reasons included the agreement in principle not meeting expectations, the duration of the agreement being a year longer than before and the salary increases and bonuses not being enough to compensate for inflation or reward them for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“When we came in, we basically followed the same approach as the car companies,” the worker said. “They have improved some things but, in my opinion, not enough.”
Mack Trucks’ tentative agreement varies by location and job, but for many workers it includes a pay increase of about 19 percent over the life of the five-year agreement, including 10 percent during ratification; Ratification bonuses of $3,500; increased corporate 401(k) payments; and other benefits. It does not include the elimination of salary brackets (it only provides for a one-year reduction which would bring the brackets to five years); the restoration of traditional pensions; cost-of-living adjustments to combat inflation; or shorter work weeks.
Mack Trucks tentative deal isn’t a bad deal, but it doesn’t come close to the 40% pay raise, inflation protection, work-life balance private and other bonuses and benefits that Fain set as the standard for negotiations with Detroit automakers. For Detroit automakers, pay levels have also been cut at least in half from eight years ago — a delay that Fain, a former autoworker, said Friday was “not acceptable.”
Mack Trucks and the UAW announced the tentative agreement early Monday, then released “highlights” of the agreement to members later in the week. Neither the UAW nor Mack Trucks made the tentative contract public before employee meetings to detail the agreement and this weekend’s vote.
Another Mack Trucks employee called the deal “shameful” and an “insult” compared to their expectations and what is currently being negotiated by international UAW leaders with the Detroit automakers, also known under the name of the Big Three.
“We are at the bottom of the rankings and we do not receive any support from the international community,” said a materials technician of more than 10 years. “They’re just pushing through this deal (in principle) so they don’t have to deal with us while the Big Three negotiate.”
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain during an online broadcast updating union members on negotiations with Detroit automakers, October 6, 2023.
The UAW declined to comment on the contract comparison between Mack Trucks and the Detroit automakers. Mack Trucks President Stephen Roy said in a statement Monday that the tentative agreement would “result in significantly increased wages and continued best-in-class benefits for Mack employees and their families,” while maintaining the competitiveness of the company.
Another veteran worker at Mack Truck’s Lehigh Valley operations in Pennsylvania said he didn’t expect the same raises and benefits negotiated with Detroit automakers, but was looking for more than what’s expected in the current agreement in principle.
“We pay dues like the Big Three,” said the Mack Trucks employee of about 20 years who has held several positions within the company. “We should have at least the same type of negotiation options.”
One of the “options” mentioned by Mack Truck workers was to carry out targeted strikes, like what is happening at the Detroit automakers, to fight for additional wages and benefits, particularly the reinstatement of adjustments. to the cost of living to combat inflation.
“My honest opinion, I thought we were going to strike because there was no COLA in it,” the worker said. So in five years we will be in the same hole again. »
Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit who specializes in labor issues, said it’s important to note that Mack Trucks is not in the same position as Detroit automakers. However, exaggerated expectations on the part of union members can be a problem.
“The UAW may be a victim of its own success,” he said. “They’re getting good deals here and everyone’s going to say we want the same thing… but they’re operating in different sectors or different segments of a broader industry that have different financial considerations, and I think that’s is exactly what you see here.”