President Biden and Former President Trump Show Support for Striking Auto Workers in Michigan
President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are both making their presence known in the ongoing auto workers’ strike in Michigan. President Biden joined the striking United Auto Workers on Tuesday, while former President Trump plans to join the picket lines in Detroit on Wednesday. Their support for the workers comes as no surprise, as polls show that a majority of Americans also back the strikers.
However, there is a delicate balance between supporting unions and higher wages and the need to control inflation. When everyone’s wages increase significantly, it becomes more challenging to keep inflation in check.
In general, higher wages contribute to overall prosperity, while higher inflation rates can make people poorer. Ideally, average pay growth should always outpace inflation, and productivity gains should prevent excessive wage increases from driving up inflation. This dynamic allows societies to steadily become wealthier year after year.
Unfortunately, this system breaks down when there is a sudden surge in inflation, as we are currently experiencing. In such scenarios, workers seek to catch up on their pay, which they feel has not adequately kept pace with inflation during previous years of low inflation.
This is precisely why the United Auto Workers are demanding a 40% pay increase over four years. While this may seem outlandish at first glance, it is a response to years of stagnation in wages. Another example is the American Airlines pilots, who recently secured a 46% raise, with 21% of it being granted in the first year.
It is crucial to find a delicate balance between supporting workers’ demands for fair pay and ensuring that inflation remains under control. This balance will enable both workers and the broader economy to thrive.
The Benefits and Risks of Union Membership
Union Membership and Better Pay
According to research conducted by the Treasury Department, being in a union significantly increases the likelihood of receiving higher pay. On average, union members enjoy wage increases ranging from 10% to 15%. These findings highlight the positive impact unions can have on workers’ financial well-being.
Balancing Fair Compensation and Inflation
Determining the ideal pay raise size is a delicate balance. It must adequately compensate workers without fueling inflation, which negatively affects everyone’s purchasing power. The 1970s witnessed the consequences of wage-price spirals, emphasizing the challenge of addressing inflation through increased pay.
Union Influence on Inflation
While the UAW’s representation of workers may not significantly impact overall inflation, research by the Federal Reserve suggests that wage demands alone have not been a driving force behind inflation. As a result, President Biden can confidently support striking workers without contradicting his efforts to combat inflation.
Future Risks and Wage-Fueled Inflation
However, granting substantial wage increases this year could pose risks for the future. Workers may seek similar gains even if inflation has subsided. This wage-fueled inflation could become problematic, especially considering the potential resurgence of union power following decades of decline.
Challenges Faced by Companies and Union Strikes
In addition, the companies facing strikes, namely Ford (F), General Motors (GM), and Stellantis (STLA), encounter genuine obstacles. These companies are not industry leaders in the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). Executives argue that succumbing to higher wage demands could diminish their competitiveness, potentially jeopardizing jobs for non-EV auto workers. Notably, Tesla (TSLA) workers are not currently unionized.
The UAW’s Pursuit of Member Benefits
The UAW is dedicated to fighting for the best interests of its members. However, it must also consider the potential long-term consequences of its actions. Striking the right balance now is crucial to avoid creating future challenges.
In conclusion, union membership offers substantial advantages, including better pay for workers. Yet, caution must be exercised to prevent wage-fueled inflation and to consider the impact on companies and non-union workers. By carefully navigating these factors, unions can maximize their benefits while minimizing potential risks.