Senator Bernie Sanders rallied with striking United Auto Workers (UAW) employees in Detroit, Michigan, on Friday, delivering a passionate speech that called out automaker CEOs for their perceived greed. Sanders’s address came during the first day of the UAW’s “Stand Up” strikes against automotive giants General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford.
In his remarks, Senator Sanders underscored that the striking workers weren’t merely fighting for better wages, benefits, and working conditions; they were also taking a stand against what he described as the “outrageous level of corporate greed and arrogance” exhibited by the CEOs of these companies. Sanders specifically mentioned General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, and Ford CEO Jim Farley, suggesting that they were profiting excessively.
“We refuse to live in an oligarchy,” Sanders declared. “We refuse to accept a society in which so few have so much and so many have so little.”
The senator’s speech culminated in a direct message to the automakers’ leadership, urging them to engage in fair negotiations and address the concerns of their employees.
Sanders emphasized the financial sacrifices made by the workers over the years and called on the CEOs to put an end to their perceived greed. He stressed the need for treating employees with respect and dignity and urged the CEOs to sit down and negotiate a fair contract.
The primary point of contention in the ongoing strike is higher pay, with the union seeking a substantial pay raise of over 40% for rank-and-file members over four years. Currently, full-time assembly plant workers at Ford and GM earn $32.32 an hour, while part-time workers earn about $17 an hour. Full-time employees at Stellantis earn $31.77 an hour, with part-time workers earning close to $16 an hour.
Additionally, the UAW is advocating for making all temporary workers permanent, cost-of-living adjustments, increases in pension benefits for current retirees, and the restoration of pensions for new hires, among other benefits.
After failing to reach an agreement on Thursday night, the strikes commenced at various plants, including a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan. Plants that were not part of the strike would continue to operate without a contract, according to UAW President Shawn Fain.
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