Detroit News: Marick Masters on GM use of lower-paid employees to stay competitive in EV market

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As General Motors prepares for its electric vehicle future with multibillion-dollar investments in Lansing, Orion Township, and elsewhere, autoworkers worry about the growing number of employees making less than traditional union-represented employees at the Detroit automaker. They see the push to add more jobs at subsidiary GM Subsystems Manufacturing LLC and GM’s joint venture battery cell manufacturer Ultium Cells LLC as unmistakable moves to retain a tiered wage system the United Auto Workers fought hard to eliminate. The Detroit Three have been competing heavily with non-union auto companies in the United States since the 1970s, forcing the UAW to make concessions for the automakers to stay competitive – including creating a tiered wage system and outsourcing jobs. Marick Masters, a professor at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business, says the UAW has been negotiating from a point of weakness for decades. Now, there’s even more pressure exerted by the pivot to electrification as GM and its local rivals compete with foreign automakers and new EV startups. “The two-tier wage system was meant to make the company more competitive and using the subsidiary to hire workers is intended to make the company more competitive,” Masters said. “And what they have in common is that they’re both doing so by paying lower wages.”

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