United Auto Workers Begin Strike
Workspan Daily
September 15, 2023

After lowering its pay increase demand to 36% from 40% days earlier, the United Auto Workers staged a walkout Friday a.m. after failing to reach an new labor agreemente with Detroit automakers, the New York Times reports.  

The strike of each of the three Detroit automakers is not a full-scale walkout by the union’s roughly 150,000 members, but a “limited and targeted” work stoppage that could expand if talks remain bogged down, according to the Times.  

The union made its first movement off its 40% raise request over the weekend and is now asking for a series of increases over nearly five years that would start with an 18% boost and then alternate between 5% and 4% annually over the subsequent years of the contract, according to Bloomberg.  

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV faced a contract deadline just before midnight on Sept. 14 for nearly 150,000 U.S. hourly workers. UAW President Shawn Fain had threatened to strike all three automakers simultaneously — a first in the union’s history — if he didn’t have a deal by then. “The deadline is the deadline,” Fain said in an interview last month. 

The automakers and the union still remain far apart on several issues, including the UAW’s request for a restoration of cost-of-living adjustments, the people said. The union also is asking for a 32-hour work week, resumption of traditional pensions, restoration of retiree health care and a boost in pension payments. 

The automakers have said the union’s original 40% pay increase demand actually totals 46%, as each year’s raise would come on top of prior years’ gains. 

Grindr Loses Nearly Half Its Staff Due to RTO Requirement  

Grindr Inc. has lost about 45% of its staff as it enforces a strict return-to-office policy that was introduced after a majority of employees announced a plan to unionize, Bloomberg News reports.  

In August, about 80 of the 178 employees at the LGBTQ dating app company were forced to resign after the company  mandated workers to return to work in person two days a week at assigned “hub” offices or be fired.   

The company also gave severance packages to staff who were unable to relocate in what the Communications Workers of America (CWA) alleged was an attempt to “silence workers from speaking out about their working conditions,” according to a statement from the organization.  

“These decisions have left Grindr dangerously understaffed and raises questions about the safety, security and stability of the app for users,” Erick Cortez, a member of the organizing group, said in the statement. “It is clear Grindr wants workers to be silenced and deterred from exercising our right to organize, regardless of the expense.” 

A spokesperson for Grindr said the claims filed by the union “have no merit” and that the company is “looking forward to returning to the office in a hybrid model in October and further improving productivity and collaboration for our entire team.” 

Grindr CEO George Arison told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology conference in San Francisco this week that more staff attrition is expected as a result of the mandate, which will be financially advantageous in the near term. 

“The team will be smaller than where we were before and where we want to be,” Arison said. “So that’ll obviously impact margin in a positive way in the near term. But I also think that shows that you can have a lot of leverage in this business because you don’t need that big of a team to do the things that we need to do.” 

Fast-Food Worker Pay Set to Rise in California Under Union Deal  

Fast-food workers in California are  poised to get a $20 minimum wage next year under a deal announced Sept. 11 between labor unions and the restaurant industry, the Wall Street Journal reports.  

Under the deal, state fast-food workers at chains with at least 60 national locations must be paid an hourly wage of $20 by April 2024. California’s minimum wage is currently set at $15.50, and is poised to rise to $16 an hour in January.  

The deal, if approved by both houses of the state legislature by Thursday, would supplant a law passed last year that created a sharp fight between unions and the restaurant industry. That law would have established state-appointed fast-food advisory councils that could have raised sector pay to up to $22 an hour and would have had additional oversight over restaurants.  

Under the new deal, beginning in 2025, the councils can only set annual fast-food wages to increase by a maximum of 3.5%. That authority would end in 2029. The council can only make policy recommendations to the governing state agency for consideration.  

An estimated half a million people work in fast food in California, the largest number in any one state, the Journal noted.  

In a statement, a spokesman for Gavin Newsom indicated the governor intends to sign the bill if it passed, calling it a “win-win for workers and businesses.” 

After the deal announcment, the Service Employees International Union, which has lobbied for the legislation in California, said  that the deal would pave the path forward for making changes for workers.  

Industry groups said the compromise would help provide a more stable environment for restaurant owners in the state.  

“This legislative outcome brings regulatory certainty and avoids legislation that would devalue Operators’ businesses and their ability to make decisions for their restaurants,” McDonald’s said in a company email viewed by Journal

Chinese Finance Industry Experiencing Significant Pay Cuts  

As the country experiences an economic downturn across industries, employees in the Chinese financial sector have taken compensation cuts of as much as 40% in 2023, Bloomberg News reports.  

In China’s largest citties — Shanghai and Beijing — hiring salaries have dropped by 9% and 6%, respectively, in the second quarter from a year ago, Bloomberg’s data noted.  

“Unless we see a steady growth in disposable income, I don’t think consumption’s going to improve in China anytime soon,” Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief Asia Pacific economist at Natixis SA, told Bloomberg. “Everybody thinks Chinese consumers are not consuming because they feel there’s too much uncertainty, they don’t feel like it. Some people in China cannot consume.” 

Bloomberg reported growing unease over job security and personal spending among Chinese workers, as the pain in China’s labor market goes well beyond its record youth unemployment rate. Despite growing resentment, many urban workers of all ages are willing to accept steep pay cuts, fewer frills and longer working hours just to hang on to a job. 

Citic Securities Co., one of the country’s top investment banks, slashed some bankers’ basic salaries by up to 15%. Its rival China International Capital Corp. cut senior banker compensation, including bonuses, by more than 40%, Bloomberg News reported previously. CICC also instructed its bankers to fly coach and to book the cheapest “hard seats” on most trains. 

A business head at a commercial bank in Shanghai told Bloomberg of his frustration that his pay dropped 10% last year, despite double-digit growth at the institution and strong personal performance. 

“On the one hand, authorities encourage households to increase consumption, but on the other hand they call for pay cuts and limits,” he said. 

“It’s not easy for financial institutions to keep salaries stable,” he added. “Once you raise pay, you’ll most likely be summoned to authorities.” 

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