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Less work for more pay? Auto union calls for 32-hour work week and double-digit raises

Demands for fewer hours have been rampant in the US, but UAW's insistence comes with a significant price tag.

August 3, 2023 12:31am

Updated: August 3, 2023 12:31am

On Tuesday, the United Auto Workers union (UAW) unveiled its latest demands from America’s "Big Three" automobile companies, including significant boosts in financial compensation. In announcing the demands, however, the union’s president also suggested reducing work weeks to 32 hours. 

"Record profits mean record contracts," said Shawn Fain, UAW’s president. In a livestream posted to Youtube, Fain said the union is demanding that Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis agree to substantial contract renewals, as current ones are set to expire in mid-September.

Some of the ten demands posted to UAW’s website include:

  • Right-to-strike guarantees over plant closures
  • Increased paid time off
  • "Significantly increasing" pay for retirees
  • Cost of living adjustments to account for inflation, etc.
  • Double-digit raises

These are "the most audacious and ambitious list of proposals they've seen in decades," Fain said during the livestream.

At the end of Fain’s presentation, a virtual audience member appears to query about a mandatory maximum work week of 40 hours. Fain responded by saying he thinks it should go "a step further. I think we should push a 32-hour work week."

"There are other countries in this world that work 30-hour work weeks," Fain continued. "So I have no issue at all that we’re proposing a shorter work week… These are quality of life issues."

Calls for fewer work hours are nothing new. In fact, Congressman Mark Takano (D-Ca) reintroduced his 2021 "Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act" this past March, a bill that would reduce "the standard workweek under federal law from 40 hours to 32 hours over a three-year phase in period."

Conversations surrounding shorter work weeks have usually led to talks of switching to a 4-day schedule instead of 5-days (Monday-Thursday, for example). 

Anecdotal research has yielded positive results both for employers and employees on this subject, however, that is typically based on keeping pay the same, making it difficult to compare historical data to the UAW’s substantial pay raise demand.

Meanwhile, concerns have grown over the years as to the power that unions increasingly seem to have obtained. Just last month, the Teamsters union reached a $30 billion agreement with United Parcel Service (UPS), narrowly avoiding a strike that experts say could have put a multi-billion dollar dent in the economy. 

Unions have also recently gotten blowback following the closure of a 99-year-old trucking company, Yellow Corp., which shut its doors after Teamsters negotiations, resulting in a reported 30,000 people losing their jobs.

An editorial by the Washington Examiner pointed to this as an example of how unions can ultimately take control of companies and make grandiose demands that aren’t feasible.

Just the News contacted UAW for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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