U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) spoke against ‘corporate greed’ and ‘record profits’ secured by the Detroit Three during a rally on Friday with striking UAW workers just 500 feet from the North American International Auto Show charity fundraising event. | Ken Coleman
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) railed against “corporate greed” and “record profits” secured by the Detroit Three during a spirited rally on Friday in the Motor City with striking United Auto Workers (UAW) members.
The rally featuring the two-time presidential candidate attracted hundreds of participants and was held at the Ford-UAW Joint Trust Center took place just 500 feet from the North American International Auto Show’s upcoming charity fundraising event. Even more workers, mostly clad in red, marched in downtown Detroit immediately following the event.
“The fight you are waging is a fight against the outrageous level of corporate greed and arrogance that we are seeing on the part of CEOs who think they have a right to have it all, and could care less about the needs of their workers,” Sanders said.
“The fight you are waging is to rebuild the struggling middle class of our country that was once the envy of the world.”
Following the expiration of contracts at midnight Friday, leaders and lawmakers on the state and national stage have lent their support as the UAW launched a “Stand Up Strike” against Michigan’s Detroit Three automakers: Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.
The union has three initial strike targets: Ford’s Michigan Assembly, GM’s Wentzville plant in Missouri and Stellantis’ Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio.
This is the first time in history that the UAW is striking against all three domestic auto giants.
The union, which represents nearly 150,000 employees of companies that manufacture U.S.-made vehicles, has been engaged since July in the labor negotiations with the Detroit Three.
Labor is fighting for increased wages, a 32-hour work week and better pension benefits, among other requests such as an end to tiered compensation between workers with different lengths of service. UAW members say tiered compensation hurts workplace morale and cripples their union.
Democratic President Joe Biden addressed the strike from the White House on Friday.
“Over the past decade auto companies have seen record profits, including over the last few years because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifice of the UAW workers,” Biden said. “Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers.”
According to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, profits at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis increased 92% from 2013 to 2022, totaling $250 billion. Forecasts for 2023 expect more than $32 billion in additional profits. CEO pay at the Detroit Three has jumped by 40% during the same period and the companies paid out nearly $66 billion in shareholder dividend payments and stock buybacks.
“In 1937, the UAW played an historic role in American history. The auto workers of that time had the extraordinary courage to take on the greed and power of the auto industry,” Sanders said. “And here we are now in 2023 – 86 years later and once again the UAW is helping to lead the effort to rebuild and grow the middle class.”
Sanders was joined by a host of Democratic leaders: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit), U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) and more.
“Michigan’s story is one of hard work, determination, and the unwavering spirit of our workers. They are the backbone of our state’s prosperity,” Gilchrist said. “I’m proud to stand tall with them in the fight for better wages, benefits, and job security. Let’s get it done, Team Michigan!”
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