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UAW hits Tim Scott with labour complaint after he suggests striking auto workers should be fired

Union president calls remarks ‘another example of how the employer class abuses the working class’

Alex Woodward
Friday 22 September 2023 18:37 BST
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Tim Scott speaks out about striking auto workers

The union representing thousands of American auto workers has filed a complaint against Republican US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina after he suggested that he would solve the ongoing strike against the nation’s “Big Three” automakers by firing them.

When asked about his approach to labour talks in the United Auto Workers strike during a campaign stop in Iowa this week, Mr Scott, who is seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for president, told voters that “Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal employees decided they were going to strike.”

The former Republican president fired thousands of striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

“He said, ‘You strike, you’re fired.’ Simple concept to me. To the extent that we can use that once again, absolutely,” Mr Scott said.

A complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board on 21 September alleges that his statements have unlawfully interfered with workers’ rights to engage in union activity.

“Tim Scott threatened employees with adverse consequences if they engage in protected, concerted activity by publicly responding to a question about striking workers as follows: ‘You strike, you’re fired,’” according to the complaint from UAW president Shawn Fain.

“Just another example of how the employer class abuses the working class in America, employers willfully violate labor law with little to no repercussions,” Mr Fain wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Time for more stringent laws to protect workers rights!!”

Mr Scott later elaborated on his statements at an event in New Hampshire.

“Obviously the president doesn’t fire folks in the private sector, but he can do in the public sector,” Mr Scott said on Wednesday. “I brought up the Ronald Reagan years because I do think that we need to have front and centre the example of a president who stood strong, and today’s president, he stands weak.”

Thousands of UAW workers launched simultaneous strikes at midnight on 14 September at three facilities operated by Ford, General Motors and Stellantis-owned Chrysler.

On 22 September, the union — which represents nearly 150,000 workers — announced an expansion of the strike to 38 parts and distribution locations across 20 states.

Union officials and auto companies remain far apart in negotiations over wages, benefits and worker schedules, among other issues. Leaders are asking for a 36 per cent pay increase over four years to match the growth of executive pay, as well as a 32-hour workweek, a return to traditional pensions, the elimination of compensation tiers and a restoration of annual and automatic cost-of-living adjustments, among other benefits.

President Joe Biden, who announced his support for striking workers last week, has faced some pressure among Michigan elected officials, Democratic members of Congress and labour organisers to join picket lines in a show of support for organised labour from the self-described “most pro-union” president.

“I do appreciate that the parties have been working around the clock,” Mr Biden said in brief remarks from the White House last week. “But I believe they should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW. I’m going to say that again: Record corporate profits — which they have — should be shared by record contracts for the UAW.”

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