It looks like the United Auto Workers wins at the Big Three auto manufacturers led to workers at nonunion Toyota getting a significant raise, too. Toyota let workers in Alabama and Kentucky know about the raises, Labor Notes reported, soon after UAW President Shawn Fain offered details of the union’s tentative agreement with Ford and announced a renewed effort to organize nonunion auto manufacturers in the U.S., like Toyota, Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Tesla, and more. “When we return to the bargaining table in 2028, it won’t just be with the Big 3, but with the Big 5 or Big 6,” he said.
At Toyota, “The new top rate will increase to $2.94 to $34.80 for production workers and $3.70 to $43.20 for skilled trades,” Labor Notes reported. The amount of time it takes workers to reach the top wage will also be slashed. The current top pay for UAW workers at Ford is $32.05, which will increase to $42.60 by the end of the contract in 2028.
A Toyota spokesman confirmed to Axios that the company “did provide wage increases” Tuesday, but declined to offer details. “We value our employees and their contributions, and we show it by offering robust compensation packages that we continually review to ensure that we remain competitive within the automotive industry,” a Toyota executive said in a statement.
”To ensure that we remain competitive within the automotive industry” is the key here. It’s not uncommon for union wins to translate into increased pay or benefits for nonunion workers as employers try to either keep their workers from jumping to better jobs or convince their workers that they don’t need unions because they’re already treated well, but this is pretty direct and dramatic.
The UAW has tried and failed to unionize workers at some of these companies, and that may happen again—but the show of strength and strategic thinking at the Big Three, and the immediate result for Toyota workers, is an optimistic sign. It’s just one of the hopeful signs for the future, signs that the UAW may have won victories that will go well beyond the currently unionized Big Three plants.
Gains on a just transition to electric vehicles are the other key win of that type. As Gene Sperling, a senior economic adviser to President Joe Biden, told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, the UAW’s tentative deal “refutes virtually every conservative critique of a new auto future made in America,” including by making “serious gains on ensuring that future EV battery jobs are strong, middle class union jobs.”
Republicans like Donald Trump and Sens. Josh Hawley and J.D. Vance cynically tried to pit the UAW workers against a clean energy future, arguing that electric vehicles automatically mean jobs heading to China, and that Republicans were the true champions for autoworkers because they opposed electric vehicles. Instead, the UAW strengthened its hand in the clean energy transition and for future organizing of nonunion manufacturers.