Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, insists the union is “available 24/7 to negotiate a deal.” That might not technically be true.
In a series of text messages obtained by The Detroit News from a private group chat on the former Twitter platform. “If we can keep them wounded for months, they won’t know what to do. “The beauty is that we’ve put it all out there for the public to see and they’re still helpless to stop it.”
The statement from Jonah Furman, the union’s communications director, whose messages were confirmed by The News, continued: “And creating compression points of national attention so they can do the right thing is very different than just one month on.” to wait for the next offer.” Plus, we break the pattern and they negotiate against each other for the first time in 70 years.
“And we can calibrate it precisely to their movements at the table. If Ford and GM don’t move, but Stellantis does, we can spare them” – and for the first time in the union’s history, breaking its long-standing practice of model bargaining by pitting competing rivals against each other. Get the best deal for dues-payers members.
Furman would not confirm that he wrote the messages, which were accompanied by the same image as on his official X account this week. He called them “private messages” that “you shouldn’t have.” According to a screenshot obtained by The News, he wrote about Rascal C(h)att at 1:57 p.m. Thursday: “Someone leaked my comments here to the business press. I’m out.”
Jim McNeill, a UAW spokesman, deferred comment to Furman, a former Labor Notes author.
The Furman messages come at a time when the union’s “stand-up strike strategy” appears set to shift into new gear as early as Friday. Fain is expected to use Facebook Live to lay out additional strike goals to the union’s rank and file, a strategy that breaks with the traditional bargaining rites the union has honed over more than 70 years.
According to three sources familiar with the situation, the messages are making the rounds among senior management at the three automakers, sparking predictable outrage and accusations of malicious negotiations. Such comments are likely to further erode trust at each of the three negotiating tables, a crucial component to reaching mutually acceptable agreements that are likely to be ratified by UAW members at each automaker.
“It is disappointing to say the least, considering what is at stake for our employees, businesses and this region,” Ford Motor Co. Chief Communications Officer Mark Truby said in a statement. “For our part, we will do that. We continue to work day and night and negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that rewards our workforce and allows Ford to invest in a vibrant and growing future.”
In a company statement, General Motors Co. said: “It is now clear that the UAW leadership always intended to cause months of disruption, regardless of the harm it inflicts on its members and their communities. The leaked information calls into question who this is.” In fact, he is in charge of the UAW’s strategy and shows a callous disregard for the seriousness of what is at stake. The UAW leadership must put the interests of its members and the country above its own ideological and personal agendas.”
Added a statement from Stellantis NV: “These reported comments from the UAW communications director are incredibly disturbing and clearly demonstrate that the UAW’s approach to these conversations is not in the best interest of the workforce. We are disappointed that it appears our employees are being used as pawns in an agenda that does not aim to meet their needs.”
The messages raise questions about where union advocacy for members ends and where a deliberate strategy to saddle GM, Ford and Stellantis with botched product launches, tarnished brand images and costly new collective bargaining agreements that are destroying their U.S. profitability and cost competitiveness begins Tesla Inc. and foreign automakers would undermine them.
Financial disadvantages like these, which are a reminder of Detroit’s sad past, benefit no one – except the competition. Not investors, management or communities. Not the Democrats or the Biden White House, who are equally extolling the transcendent virtues of the strike and the job-creating “truth” of electrification. Not the union leadership or ordinary members, who can only be successful if the money flows unhindered into the profit zone.
With the glaring exception of the Fain-led UAW, this city and its automakers are waging the proverbial final war. It is a conflict more reminiscent of a World War I-style war of attrition than the contemporary asymmetrical tactics that the union uses to keep large, hierarchical corporations off balance, left behind and in the fight for the public opinion to fight for opinion 24/7.
Did anyone in this city’s management see this coming – a complete departure from convention that effectively abandons model bargaining, puts industry practice at the service of the UAW, and eschews old strike tactics in favor of a rolling approach designed to create and create chaos? financial pain?
The answer: Mostly no, although GM, Ford and Stellantis NV appear to be scrambling to put forward offers to attract the attention of a union president who is clearly unimpressed with anything that falls short of the union’s original demands.
As a scorched earth tactic, the Fain method may have its merits. Under the de facto partnership, both sides are expected to manage the transition to battery production and electric vehicles together, longing for the rustic mutual trust of this and previous generations. Fain’s approach is more of an artificial promise of confrontation.
“Shawn Fain completely outwitted the leaders of the Big Three,” Harry Wilson, a former member of President Barack Obama’s auto task force, told CNBC. “He had a conscious, well-thought-out strategy. He put his rhetoric together brilliantly.”
Maybe like this. And the frustration of GM CEO Mary Barra, GM President Mark Reuss, Ford CEO Jim Farley, to name just three, are clear signs that Fain’s rhetoric, his vanished negotiating style and his “stand-up “ Strike tactics are waning among executives who expect a certain level of understanding and teamwork from the top of the UAW.
They probably won’t get either from the new sheriffs at Solidarity House. Out reigns nobly over the decline; in recognizes the moment facing workers and the automotive industry and is committed to ensuring better wages, benefits and working conditions for the rank and file under a new cadre of leadership and influential employees.
“Two years ago I wrote work notes about John Deere,” Furman wrote. “Now we beat all three of the Big 3 and will have some historic successes. CNN broadcasts our communications and pickets live A folksy, class-war Christian Gen X white guy from Indiana quoting Malcolm X.
Daniel Howes is a senior editor/business editor and columnist for The Detroit News.