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How the UAW and US Automakers Might Find a Successful Outcome in Their Negotiation

By: Daniel Duty, CEO, Conlego. Mark Hill, Associate, Conlego.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) and the three major automakers in the United States, General Motors (GM), Ford, and Stellantis (Fiat-Chrysler), are currently in negotiations for a new labor contract. The UAW has called for strikes at three plants across the US to put pressure on the automakers and are threatening to escalate their walkout. Automakers have responded by laying off workers.

In this negotiation, both sides are attempting to use power and leverage to force the other to capitulate. This is a competitive form of negotiation whereby one side seeks to beat the other. At Conlego, we know from experience that neither side is likely to prevail with this approach. Competitive negotiations only work where one side has a power advantage. But here, neither side has an overwhelming power position.

To resolve this dispute and engage in a more productive negotiation, the parties should consider a “problem-solving” approach to their negotiation. In this approach, both parties lay out their respective prioritized needs or interests, then seek to problem-solve or brainstorm workable solutions. We know that “problem-solving” negotiations can create novel solutions that satisfy all parties’ interests.

From what we have heard in the press, the UAW’s primary interests are increased wages over time (a share in the profits), better benefits, and more predictable working hours. What we have heard from the automakers is their primary interest is ensuring a competitive and profitable advantage in the move to more electric vehicles.

It is not clear whether these interests are incompatible. Indeed, through problem-solving and turning down the competitive rhetoric, the parties might find a solution that meets both of their needs.

Wouldn’t it be great if the parties could find a solution that drives American auto advantage through investments in innovation while supporting the very workers that make that happen?

How do you think these labor disputes will end? Who do you think has more leverage, and why? Let us know by keeping the conversation going in the comments on our blog or on LinkedIn.

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