© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UAW’s contract with Big Three automakers could impact non-union Texas auto workers

Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Toyota Texas President Kevin Voelkel, and County Judge Nelson Wolff pose in front of new 2023 hybrid Sequoia SUV on Sept. 21, 2023
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Toyota Texas President Kevin Voelkel, and County Judge Nelson Wolff pose in front of new 2023 hybrid Sequoia SUV on Sept. 21, 2023

Get TPR's best stories of the day and a jump start to the weekend with the 321 Newsletter — straight to your inbox every day. Sign up for it here.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) reached tentative agreements with Ford, GM, and Stellantis by the end of October after six weeks of strike action. But despite the contracts' limited coverage of workers at the so-called Big Three automakers, labor leaders believe its impact has already extended beyond them, even into South Texas.

The historic agreements, which still must be ratified by UAW’s rank-and-file, reportedly include major pay increases, additional jobs, the reopening of a plant, and some concessions over the unionization of battery plants.

None of the Big Three automakers operate plants in South Texas, but just days after the UAW reached its final tentative agreement with GM, Toyota bumped up its pay for non-union factory workers across the country — including for workers at San Antonio’s Toyota plant.

“The most important thing about the Toyota changes is just, they could’ve done that at any time if that’s what they really thought needed to happen,” said Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy. “And the fact that they would only do it after workers organize and win is just such a signal that more and more workers need to organize and we can win a lot more together.”

UAW President Shawn Fain has said he plans to organize workers at Honda, Tesla, and Toyota between now and when the UAW’s contract is up for renewal in 2028.

"When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big Three, but with the Big Five or Big Six," Fain said during an online announcement.

Labor Plaza
Dan Katz
Labor Plaza

The UAW has tried and failed to organize workers at non-union automakers in the past, but Levy said he believes the contracts UAW has gotten from the Big Three will supercharge organizing efforts.

“I think what this strike and this victory shows is that we’re back to a situation where union workers, through collective bargaining and collective action, are setting standards that are going to ripple through the entire economy,” Levy said. “And I think that is nothing but good for working people.”

Fain said the UAW intentionally designed the bargaining contracts with the Big Three to end on April 30, 2028, the day before May Day, which commemorates the historic struggles and successes of the labor movement.

He called on other unions to align their contract expiration dates with the UAW’s so that they could collectively wield their labor power to pressure companies to agree to favorable deals, or risk a massive strike across multiple industries and regions.

“I don’t think Shawn Fain and the autoworkers have made any apology that when they’re fighting for their jobs at the Big Three, they’re really fighting for everybody’s job,” Levy said. “And I think the invitation to other folks to say, ‘Hey, we’re stronger when we’re together,’ is exactly in line with the kind of solidarity we try and build every day.”

UAW local unions have begun voting on whether to ratify the contracts with the Big Three, and voting will finish in the coming weeks.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.