Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) addressed striking United Auto Workers (UAW) members in Detroit on Friday, throwing his support behind a first-of-its-kind strike against the “Big Three” automakers.
“The fight you are waging here is not just about decent wages and working conditions and pensions in the automobile industry,” Sanders told the crowd. “It is a fight to take on corporate greed and tell the people on top this country belongs to all of us, not just a few.”
UAW began a strike against the “Big Three” automakers — Ford, General Motors and Stellantis — Friday morning. The union is demanding increased wages, shorter work weeks and better retirement benefits.
Sanders said the fight is much larger than just auto workers and impacts every working American fighting for greater economic equality.
“That is why every worker in America — white collar, blue collar and in between — has got to stand with UAW in your struggle for justice,” he said.
The progressive senator said that the average auto worker salary has decreased by 30 percent in the last 50 years, when adjusted for inflation. That comes as industry revenues and executive compensation have skyrocketed.
Profits at the Big Three firms increased by 92 percent in the last decade and CEO pay increased by 40 percent in the same period, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.
“Despite all of that wealth, brothers and sisters, and you know this well 60 percent of our people are living paycheck to paycheck,” Sanders said.
“I grew up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck and I know a little bit about that. This is the richest country in the history of the world and families in America, families in the automobile industry should not have to live with that kind of stress.”
The strikes are a culmination of six months of negotiations between automakers and the union. The union has turned down offers from all three firms, saying they came up short.
President Biden on Friday encouraged the companies to increase their offers in remarks.
“I believe they should go further… Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW,” Biden said.
“No one wants a strike. But I respect workers’ rights to use their options under the collective bargaining system and I understand the workers’ frustration.”
Sanders ended his speech with remarks for the automakers’ leadership.
“I would like to say a word to the CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Understand, CEOs, the enormous financial sacrifices your workers have made over the years,” he said.
“It is time for you to end your greed. It is time for you to treat your employees with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is time to sit down and negotiate a fair contract.”