Biden walks picket line, and steps into history books
President Biden stepped into the history books today as he walked the picket line with UAW workers, the first president to do so. The UAW strike is about a return to fairness. Auto workers ceded much during the Bush Recession of the late 2000s, and now that the industry is roaring ahead, workers should share in the bounty.
At the time, it appeared strongly possible that the auto manufacturers would go under. Workers pitched in to save their employers, accepting a two-tier pay system. As a result, workers hired post 2007 would be paid lower and suffer worse benefits than older employees.
The industry roared back, with profits skyrocketing. Ford, for example, made more than $10 billion in profits in 2022 (1).
CEO pay has certainly not suffered. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford CEO Jim Farley received nearly $21 million in total compensation last year, and Stellantis (Chrysler) CEO Carlos Tavares enjoyed total compensation of $24.8 million.
But General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra wins the prize — nearly $29 million in 2022 (2).
Rather than shower a few CEOs in millions, unions strengthen families, and build people’s futures. Unions built the US middle classes. Strong unions set wage standards for entire industries and occupations, building equality within occupations; and they close pay gaps between white workers and workers of color (3).
Deunionization depressed the wages of middle-wage earners but had little impact on high-wage earners and therefore greatly increased wage inequality between these two groups. For instance, as shown in the accompanying graph, deunionization explains a third of the growth of the wage gap between high- and middle-wage earners from 1979–2017 (3).