S&P Global: Marick Masters on federal UAW investigation

Distrust in the wake of an ongoing federal corruption investigation linked to the United Auto Workers could make it more difficult for the union to strike a deal with automakers, according to experts. "The union has to be cognizant of the fact that membership is going to be watching with a somewhat skeptical eye at anything the leadership does in these negotiations," Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University, said. Workers must be informed of what is taking place during the negotiations, and it "implies a level of diligence and dedication above and beyond what might be normal," Masters said. "I would say that in terms of the negotiation process, what happens in situations like this is that it reduces degrees of freedom," he said, adding that there is not as much leverage or choice. "If you have to do something that's unpopular, it's harder to go back and explain to membership if you're under a cloud." Training funds are probably on the table as a negotiation issue, Masters said, and the joint training programs connected to the UAW and automakers could be impacted since they are funded by automakers. "It's almost unimaginable to believe companies won't want to say, 'I think maybe we should take a look at these programs,'" he said, adding that the automakers want the money to be well-spent. Automakers are "facing challenging times" as the industry changes and companies are trying to free up capital to invest in new technologies, Masters said. On the other side, the union wants to maintain its gains from the 2015 negotiations in terms of wage increases and healthcare. On Sept. 3, the UAW announced that workers at GM, Fiat Chrysler and Ford voted to authorize a strike if necessary. "If you have a strike, that could harm the companies and do serious damage," Masters said.

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