DETROIT (WWJ) – As complaints about the current “two tier” wage system dominate the two-day UAW bargaining convention, the union’s president shot down speculation that car companies might be able to bring in new non-manufacturing workers, who might be paid at an even lower rate.

“My staff said, ‘Did you see the article in the paper about a new tier?  No, and I think they got too many damn tiers now,” said UAW President Dennis Williams, in a keynote address to members.

Williams, for the most part, spoke in generalities, supporting “equal pay for equal work,” and hit on as many political and social justice themes, as he did bargaining themes.

But, with car companies now making billions in profits, Williams let it be known that he feels workers need to share in that prosperity.

“I truly believe that the companies we deal with know that we can be both creative and thoughtful.  But, make no doubt about it, they also know that as we share in the bad times, we must equally share in the good times.”

Car companies have expanded profit-sharing in recent years as a way to reward workers in good times, and keep costs down when times are bad.   Pay raises, which the workers seek, add costs that are harder to cut in tough times.

But the members to this convention also point out that they haven’t had a raise in more than a decade.

The second day of the two day feature also included a lot of debate about work rules, and health care, with complaints about the impact of long shifts and flexible schedules.

Talks are expected to begin in mid summer, and intensify around Labor Day, as the parties work to meet a mid-September deadline.

Williams says the union will go into those talks unified.

“Our mission, our goal is to raise everybody up and to bridge the gap.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert