By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT (WWJ) – With a little over two weeks to go until the contract deadline, UAW President Bob King says he’s “upbeat” about this year’s talks.

“There’s a real commitment to keep the companies successful from the companies and from us, and a real commitment to give our membership a fair share of the success of the companies.”

Speaking to reporters after an address to the Detroit Economic Club, King admitted it will be difficult to get a deal done by the September 14th deadline.  The union has often had to extend that deadline in the past.

Even though he’s upbeat, King said there’s a lot of work to be done between now and the September 14th deadline.

“I’ve been involved in negotiations for thirty years,” said King.  “You can be in a really high track sometimes, and think you’re really close and fall a part, and—sometimes–think that ‘Man, we’re miles away’ and it just comes together very quickly.”

King, who’s indicated all along that the deal will include some sort of enhanced profit sharing, didn’t rule out raises.  He said what’s most important is to get more for second tier workers, who make roughly half of what traditional employees make.

“We’re very concerned about that entry level worker having a middle class standard of living, which I would argue they don’t, at the current rates,” said King.  “So, I would say that’s the highest priority.”

The UAW President said he was not concerned about workers rejecting a tentative agreement that doesn’t include higher wages or cost of living increases.  He said one of the most important goals was to gain some stability.

“Our members are tired of having to bounce around,” he said.  “We want these companies to come back.  We want them to open up new facilities.  We want them to put new shifts on. People want to be able to have real long term security.”

King used his speech to the Economic Club to call for more government spending, not less.  He said it should be funded by higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.  King made a number of critical references to Tea Party members, who believe tax cuts and lower government spending will stimulate the economy.

The audience, comprised mostly of members of the business community, applauded politely.  Some sat with arms crossed.  King admitted when he started the speech that it wasn’t something many in the audience would want to hear.

Also in attendance, leaders from the labor departments at the three auto companies.  King made it a point to say that he felt the CEO’s of all three companies want to reward their workers.

“I think we’ve got three of the best CEO’s we’ve had in this industry.  CEO’s who are really committed to our membership getting their fair share and creating more jobs in America, more investment in America.”


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