Auto workers want to share Detroit's new wealth

Employees work on the production line of a Ford Focus at the Ford plant in Saarlouis, Germany.

Jeremy Hobson: The United Auto Workers start a three-day meeting in Detroit today, just months before its contracts expire. And don't think union leaders can't see the rebound in sales at the big three automakers.

As Marketplace's Alisa Roth reports, they'd like their piece of that.


Alisa Roth: Brett Ward has spent the last 17 years working for Chrysler. Like other auto workers, he made big concessions when his company got into trouble in 2008. He points out carmakers pushed through a two-tiered wage system, which pays new employees a much lower hourly rate. Now he wants something back.

Brett Ward: I don't feel that we need to be making the sacrifices as much as management needs to make the sacrifices.

Ford and GM both earned money last year; Chrysler expects to be profitable this year. All three have recently given workers bonuses.

Tom Kochen is a management professor at MIT's business school. He says the Big Three have to share the new wealth with their workers.

Tom Kochen: They've got to find a way to increase pay slowly, but do so in the context of sharing the benefits of the profits that Ford and GM achieve.

GM and Chrysler workers can't strike under the terms of their companies' government loans. And at this point, Kochen thinks it's unlikely Ford workers will strike either.

I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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