Ford-UAW chief promises wage increase in new contract – Detroit Free Press
Jimmy Settles, the UAW leader in charge of negotiations with Ford, promises a wage increase for unionized workers as part of labor negotiations that are heating up.
The current four-year contract between the UAW and 141,000 unionized workers expires Monday at midnight.
Settles released a video on Facebook today in which he is in a mock interview with an executive of an outside public relations firm.
It is odd for a number of reasons.
One is timing: Settles is making promises in the critical days leading up to the deadline — a time when both sides usually try to keep the lid on how talks are faring. His UAW counterparts at both General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles took the opposite tack, issuing letters to the membership this week explaining that no details would be released until a tentative agreement is reached.
Then there is the use of an outside public relations firm. The video is of Settles being interviewed by Al Upchurch, senior vice president of communications firm Marx Layne & Co. Traditionally releases to the membership appear on Solidarity House letterhead and the UAW has its own PR staff. Even social media posts are usually from union leadership and not outside firms.
And then there is the swagger. Settles, the senior statesman when it comes to UAW-Detroit Three talks, repeatedly notes that Ford has been “very very profitable,” some of his members have not had a raise in 10 years and others are paid at a lower wage than their senior colleagues, all of which adds up to confidence in a wage increase in the next contract.
“Now is our time,” Settles said of his determination to negotiate a wage raise. “It’s just how much.”
The UAW-Ford division previously released two videos introducing the 2015 bargaining team and giving them a pulpit to discuss this year’s talks. Many vowed to not accept concessions.
And two more videos are promised. One will address the advantages of joining a union and the final one, scheduled for release Friday night, looks at Right to Work laws.
The UAW-Ford Department has been working with Farmington Hills-based Marx Layne for some time to promote its community and philanthropic activities. Earlier this week the firm issued a press release announcing the results of strike authorization votes by Ford locals. GM and Chrysler UAW vice presidents issued their own strike authorization results on Facebook.
UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg declined to comment on Settles’ use of an outside public relations firm. UAW President Dennis Williams is in negotiations and not available for comment.
Settles, serving in his third term as vice president, has a history of straightforward and often blunt comments to union members as well as media on UAW issues and his goals and objectives.
“He’s trying to reassure members that he knows what the goals of these negotiations are,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “I think he is continuing to embrace more modern methods of community with the membership.”
Settles, in his video, said every set of negotiations is different and acknowledged the companies must remain competitive.
The automakers have said they cannot afford to return to old ways and old days when their labor costs made them uncompetitive.
Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle