Just to clarify, you don’t have to be a Member of Congress to be the Speaker of the House. So, if I’m not doing The Morning Dump tomorrow, there’s a decent chance that I’ve been elected the new Speaker of the House. First order of business: Get rid of the 25-year import ban. Ok, real first order of business: rid of the Designated Hitter position in baseball (If Shohei Ohtani can hit it, every pitcher should!). Second order of business: Get rid of the 25-year import ban. Actually, the second order of business: pass a budget… that includes the repeal of the 25-year import ban. I’m good at this!
Speaking of good-at-this, there’s a great story this morning that highlights some of the views and attitudes of striking United Auto Workers I want to highlight. I’ll follow that up with Ford’s counterproposal to the UAW, because the automaker has moved a decent amount in the last few weeks.
All of this strike business is happening right as the automotive market in the United States is finally starting to return to where it should be after years of strife. Is that bad timing for some or bad timing for everyone?
“There are no days off when you’re fighting for your survival”
When covering a strike it’s important to talk to union leadership, of course, but it’s also just as key to hear from the workers on the line. The seed of this current flowering strike was planted when the former UAW leadership essentially ignored the average worker and made what many viewed as sweetheart backroom deals. Whatever you think of current UAW President Shawn Fain’s actual intentions (the average Big 3 C-suiter, at this point, seems to view him as the chaotic Joker played by Heath Ledger in the Nolan Batman flicks), he has repeatedly expressed that he’s merely an instrument of the people.
So let’s listen to some people.
The Detroit Free Press‘s Phoebe Wall Howard went out to the lines in the middle of the night to file this report: “For striking UAW workers, picket line feels different in the middle of the night.”
There’s a lot here:
“There are no days off when you’re fighting for your survival,” Brandon Clark, 38, who works as a “switcher,” driving a products truck in and out of docks at the site near Port Huron, told the Detroit Free Press.
“We’re out here for the middle class, not just autoworkers,” said the Eastpointe man. “We’re here so everybody can have a fair share of the American pie.”
“I tell my daughter we’re fighting for a better America,” said Anthony Theeuwes, 52, of Port Huron. As a temporary worker for nearly three years, he earns $17.53 lifting car parts such as doors and tailgates. The strike allows him to walk Esme to second grade these days.
“We’re waiting for a contract and hoping for the best,” he said. “I was a breakfast cook at Mama Vicki’s Coney Island (North) for 20 years. They paid more, plus benefits. They took good care of me. I thought coming to this job would be a good opportunity.”
I love the extremely Detroit clarification in that quote that he worked for Mama Vicki’s Coney Island North.
The bit about Theeuwes laboring as a temp worker for three years lifting heavy car parts is absolutely no surprise.
There’s long been a bi-partisan effort in this country to herald the blue-collar plant worker as a paragon of the American working class when it’s electorally convenient. They are largely portrayed as bearded men in John Deere hats, who work hard during the week and pray hard on the weekend. Yet, through slightly more partisan efforts, those same workers are suddenly lazy and spoiled when they ask for what they view as their fair share. Weird!
There are about 400,000 UAW members in the United States out of about 135 million full-time working Americans. That’s a tiny percentage overall, but union workers seem to think that raising wages for themselves will result in better pay for everyone else (there’s evidence that this is the case).
I liked this story. I think you should read it. Also, I thought this tweet from a radio show that the reporter was on was interesting:
Rick: Why were you on the picket line in the middle of the night?
Phoebe Wall Howard: My preferred choice is always between 10 p.m. & 7 a.m.; I like to be on the picket line when workers are most tired–they're more honest & there are no other reporters around.@phoebesaid
— Rick Smith (@RickSmithShow) October 4, 2023
Ford’s Big Counter Offer
Here’s a little graphic showing what Ford just shared with the UAW:
Look at all those checkmarks!
This does seem to come much closer to what autoworkers have seemingly asked for in their various requests and the bit about “No job loss due to EV battery plants” is interesting, and the enforcement mechanism for that will be interesting to see.
With this, Ford also sent out this note about the impact of the strike:
Our production system is highly interconnected, which means the UAW’s targeted strike strategy has knock-on effects for facilities that are not directly targeted for a work stoppage. In this case, the strike at Chicago Assembly Plant has directly impacted some operations at Chicago Stamping Plant and Lima Engine Plant. Approximately 330 employees have been asked not to report to work, with layoffs taking effect beginning Sept. 30 at Chicago Stamping Plant and Oct. 2 at Lima Engine Plant.
Liz Door, Ford’s Chief Supply Chain Officer (from Ford’s media briefing Friday, Sept. 29)
“We understand to date there are about 2,400 supplier employees that have been laid off. But as a consequence of the actions today, we see this two-week inflection point. We have roughly 125,000 supplier employees that support our Michigan Assembly Plant. And if prolonged, this really could have a significant impact as it extends into our other Ford factories. We see anywhere between 325,000 to 500,000 employees that could be laid off.”
Carrot and stick.
It’s Good To Be Just About Everyone That Isn’t Stellantis
In addition to the Kia Carnival, the rest of the car market pretty much had a great third quarter (we’re still waiting on a few to report). GM was up 21.2% year-over-year, Honda was up 52.7%, and even Mitsubishi was up 32.3% over the same period. This makes sense as these automakers suddenly have products to sell and fleet sales are finally starting to return.
The third quarter did suck ass for one automaker, though, and that automaker was Stellantis. While Chrysler was up (95.8%!) and Maserati saw a big jump (38%!), the rest of the portfolio shrank. Let’s go through the brands and roast them:
- Dodge (-22.7%): Just rebadged Alfas now, and not even the good ones
- Alfa Romeo (-16.0%): Needs to bring back the MiTo
- Fiat (-30.3%): Who are the 145 people who actually bought Fiats?
- Jeep (-4.2%): Too many overbuilt, underbaked crossovers
- RAM (-3.5%): The Ram 1500 is a good truck, but what we really want is a weird little Maverick-like Fiat-based thing, sorry-not-sorry
In the short term, the strike is maybe…less bad (?) for Stellantis because why should they even keep making cars that the market doesn’t appear to be in love with? If automakers like Toyota and Honda have the hardware and can jump in and offer good deals to conquest buyers then the strike might be temporarily good for the car market, but the last thing that consumers need over the long-term is a return to restricted inventory.
Ram Recalls 273k Trucks Over Weird Camera Issue
Modern vehicles are complex and one little bit of complexity that is now mandatory is a backup camera. This actually makes a ton of sense and it’s the one piece of technology I’d like to add back to my older BMW.
It’s useful! Unless you have one of the nearly 273,000 trucks built by RAM because the radio software might prevent the rearview backup camera from being shown. Oops. The recall covers 022-2023 Ram 1500, Ram 3500 Cab Chassis with GVWR less than 10,000 lbs., and 2022-2024 Ram 2500 vehicles.
The good news is that this is just a software update and should be able to be carried out by dealers, free of charge.