Detroit News: Marick Masters on UAW leadership

The widening corruption investigation into the United Auto Workers could create a new level of distrust between the rank-and-file at the union and leadership, and make them suspicious of any deal struck with carmakers in ongoing contract talks, experts say. Workers are going to be looking at developments in negotiations "with a jaundiced eye," said Marick Masters, a professor of business and the former director of labor studies at Wayne State University. "You want to go out on strike, yet there’s this cloud hanging over that has to give some people pause." Whether all this makes a strike more or less unlikely when labor contracts with the Detroit Three expire after 11:59 p.m. Sept. 14 — or cause workers to vote "no" on any contract ratification out of anger or distrust — is uncertain. Union members want to be assured the contract the leaders present for ratification is the best one for workers, Masters said. "That is a harder assurance to give when there's a cloud hanging over your head," he said. To restore some element of trust, Masters believes the UAW executive board should be called into session as early as Thursday morning to consider appointing a review board. GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Ford Motor Co. have recorded big profits since the last labor contracts were signed four years ago. But they are investing in costly development of electric and self-driving technology. Automakers also are looking at softening vehicle sales, with forecasts of even steeper drops in coming years. "All of these things put the companies in the position where they need to free up as much capital as they possibly can to invest in the new technologies, and the union at the same time is going to want to put a claim on those profits," Masters said. The union will be holding out for wage increases and to protect profit-sharing and health care benefits, Masters said.

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