One need not have supernatural prescience to see that negotiations between the UAW and the Detroit 3 are likely to be contentious affairs that will probably devolve from last week's tense-if-cordial opening handshakes.
There may not be much either side can do about that: As water is to fish, the statement is simply a recognition of the environment in which we all swim.
As UAW President Gary Jones noted, the Detroit 3 have seen a run of record profits — first as they recovered from the 2009 market collapse and later as they capitalized on shifting consumer tastes for profit-rich light trucks. Accurately or not, the UAW's members believe they have not shared proportionally in those good times, especially given earlier sacrifices.
Meanwhile, despite flush bottom lines, the Detroit 3 have their own legitimate reasons for concern. Unlike in 2015, the North American auto market is no longer growing; vehicle affordability is sending shoppers to the used-car lot, and health care continues to be an uncomfortably large piece of employee compensation, despite previous interventions both from within and outside.
The table is set, certainly, for talks to get heated. Yet, rather than rushing headlong into a confrontation and costly test of wills, there is a mutually beneficial path forward in Jones' remarks that his members "expect to share in the profits that their hard work and dedication has made possible."
The current profit-sharing formula makes it easier for any worker on the line to see what their profit-sharing check will be, roughly $1,000 for every $1 billion of North American profits. But since profit-sharing was established when the automakers had far more workers and far fewer robots, it is in need of a large adjustment upward.
Robust profit-sharing aligns the interests of automaker and auto worker toward a shared goal and gives each a stake in the well-being of the other. Anecdotally, a good number of those annual checks are plowed back into the automakers' own products or spent in ways that boost the economy as a whole.
There are months of tough talks ahead about a variety of topics before any deal is reached. But in the challenge of the give-and-take, increased profit-sharing can help close the divide.