DETROIT -- To say the UAW rank and file's expectations for more pay are high would be an understatement.
Delegates at last week's UAW bargaining convention, the unofficial opening of negotiations with the Detroit 3, demanded that the car companies return to workers what they sacrificed before and during the recession.
"They know we gave up a lot in 2007, 2009 and 2011," said Junior Robinson, president of UAW Local 900, representing workers at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit, which makes the Focus.
"We had to do what we had to do back then. Now it's time to get some or all of it back."
The upcoming negotiations could be the most contentious in years, said Dave Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. He cited the return of strong profits at the Detroit 3, workers' desire for a pay increase and their distaste for the entry-level Tier 2 pay scale.
Meantime, the Detroit 3 want to keep annual labor cost increases to about the rate of inflation as they try to close a labor cost gap they still have with the nonunion U.S. operations of the German, Asian and Korean automakers, Cole said before the bargaining convention.
Gary Walkowicz, a UAW delegate and bargaining committeeman at Ford's Dearborn Truck plant, said at the convention that the union should be prepared to strike if the carmakers refuse to return what workers have given up and more.
"It will take a fight to get it back," he said.