Detroit felt the Bern! Senator Bernie Sanders, ever the advocate for the average American worker, came swinging at the giants of the auto industry during a rambunctious United Auto Workers rally this Friday. The message was loud, clear, and unapologetically Sanders: “Hey, Big Three CEOs: Enough with the greed!”
In the heart of Detroit, as over 12,000 union members took their stand in Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio, Sanders didn’t hold back. He called out the fat cat CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, highlighting their staggering profit margins and juxtaposing them against the meager earnings of their very backbone: the workers.
“Surviving on $17 an hour – think you could do it, Mary Barra?” Sanders challenged the GM CEO, spotlighting her whopping $29 million compensation last year. Barra’s colossal earnings equate to over $200 million since 2014. That’s a lot of zeroes for one person, especially when many of her employees grapple with the realities of raising families and paying rent at a fraction of her hourly rate.
And Barra wasn’t the only one in Bernie’s line of fire. Carlos Tavares, the head honcho at Stellantis, and Ford’s top guy, Jim Farley, both got served with the senator’s sharp questions on the realities faced by their “temporary” workers and aging employees with bleak retirement prospects, respectively.
But Bernie’s message wasn’t just a laundry list of grievances. He placed the workers’ fight within the broader context of the auto industry’s history. Remember the time when the industry hit rock bottom, and unions made significant sacrifices? Fast forward to today, where these companies generously sprinkle $9 billion not on their workers’ well-being, but on stock buybacks and dividends. It’s a classic case of the rich getting richer, leaving workers to wrestle with stagnant wages, as profits soar.
Sanders drove the point home with undeniable Bernie fervor: the UAW’s demands, from a significant wage bump to abolishing tiered pay systems, are not only just but also a mere fraction of what these corporations have amassed in profits, thanks to the hard work of these very union members.
In a society increasingly tilted in favor of the 1%, Sanders’ rally cry was both a challenge to the auto titans and a clarion call for workers’ rights. “We’re not asking for the world,” he seemed to say, “just a fair share in a world you’re monopolizing.” So, Big Three, will you shift gears, or will you keep driving down this greedy highway?