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As UAW, Detroit 3 fight over wages, here's a look at autoworker pay, CEO compensation

Wages have been a big point of contention in ongoing UAW talks, with the union initially seeking a 40% pay increase and the automakers offering about half that percentage over the life of the next contract in their most recent proposals.

The union has said the wage request is tied to the percentage increase in CEO compensation over the last four years. The union has also pointed to the big increase in inflation, saying autoworker wages haven’t come close to keeping pace.

So what do United Auto Workers members make? A blog post in August on UAW contracts by Kristin Dziczek, a policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, put the top hourly production wage for UAW members at $32 an hour. It also put estimated hourly labor costs for the Detroit Three automakers for those workers, including benefits and bonuses, at an estimated $66 per hour this year.

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Autoworker wages in the US

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average hourly wage rate for all production and non-supervisory autoworkers in the United States at $27.99 per hour as of August. Hourly labor costs, including benefits and expenses, at non-union plants operated by Tesla and foreign transplants are also less than at the Detroit Three, from $45 to $55 per hour, according to recent Free Press reporting, a point that the companies tend to highlight.

Not all autoworkers at the Detroit Three come close to the top pay rate of $32 an hour. Temporary or supplemental workers make less. Stellantis, for instance, offered in one of its proposals during ongoing contract talks to raise the starting wage for its supplemental workers from $15.78 per hour to $20 per hour, and the company, which says it needs them to fill gaps caused by absenteeism, has thousands of such workers. Many supplemental workers make around $17 per hour, although the percentage of those making such wages across the industry isn't clear because that information isn't necessarily made public.

For permanent production workers who are said to be "in- progression" to top wages, the union wants to eliminate this so-called tiered system, which dates to 2007. It included lower starting pay and different benefits, such as a 401(k) retirement offering rather than a pension, for workers hired since that time. The range goes from about $18 an hour up to that top rate of $32, according to Marick Masters, a labor expert and business professor at Wayne State University.

Company proposals have included offers to reduce the number of years it takes to reach top pay for these workers from eight years to four. The union would also like to see supplemental workers rolled over to permanent status in a matter of months rather than allowing them to remain in that role for years in some cases.

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Detroit 3 CEO compensation

And as far as compensation to the CEOs − $29 million for GM’s Mary Barra, $21 million for Ford’s Jim Farley and $24.8 million for Stellantis in 2022, as the Free Press recently noted – they weren’t even the highest payout to an individual last year at the companies.

That honor appears to go to Mike Manley, the former head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, who pocketed $54.1 million as part of an agreement inked before the 2021 merger that created Stellantis from FCA and Peugeot maker PSA Group. Manley left Stellantis in November 2021 to become CEO of AutoNation.

At the UAW, President Shawn Fain is expected to make the same amount in annual compensation as his predecessor Ray Curry, according to labor experts.

The UAW constitutional provisions on salaries for executive officers is reported in financial disclosure forms. Based on the 2022 LM-2 financial disclosure, Curry's base compensation that year was slightly over $219,000. If adding in bonuses and other benefits, it showed a total compensation of $267,000.

A spokesman for the UAW would not verify Fain's compensation when asked to do so by the Detroit Free Press.

Contact Eric D. Lawrence: Become a subscriber.

United Auto Workers members strike at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant on September 16, 2023, in Wayne, Michigan.
United Auto Workers members strike at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant on September 16, 2023, in Wayne, Michigan.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Autoworker pay? Here's a look at UAW, CEO salaries amid strike