General Motors president Mark Reuss responded to criticisms of the company’s treatment and compensation of United Auto Workers members in an editorial published this morning on the Detroit Free Press website.
In the piece, Reuss defended the automaker from numerous claims which he referred to as “myths.” Although he did not go into detail about current pay rates, the president rejected the notion that the company’s workforce earns “poverty wages.” Reuss pointed to General Motors’ latest contract submitted to the United Auto Workers union as evidence of its commitment to better pay. The proposal would raise yearly incomes to $82,000 for 85% of the company’s unionized employees, more than $30,000 over the average median household income of $51,821 in areas surrounding nine of GM’s 12 assembly plants. While estimates of the automaker’s typical compensation vary, Talent.com currently reports that company employees earn a median salary of $52,436. In Tennessee, where the company’s largest plant is located, the median household income for all residents averaged $58,516 between 2017 and 2021.
Reuss also challenged the notion that General Motors could afford to meet the United Auto Workers union’s proposed 36% pay increase, calling the hike “untenable.” The president stressed that the automaker would need to make heavy investments into electric vehicle production in the coming years to remain competitive and could fall behind other manufacturers if it is forced to reign in spending due to wage increases. Reuss also denied claims that the company’s “record profits” were wasted on “corporate greed,” noting that General Motors has spent $77 billion on capital investments since 2013 but only earned $65 billion in net income.
However, as United Auto Workers leaders have frequently pointed out, those capital expenditures have not deterred heavy pay increases for OEM executives. General Motors CEO Mary Barra, the highest-paid Big-Three CEO, earned $29 million in 2022, a raise of 34% from 2019. In contrast, UAW president Shawn Fain reports that union pay has risen only 6% over the same time frame, much of which has now been offset by substantial inflation. Barra recently defended her income in an interview with CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich, noting that her earnings were kept proportional to the company’s yearly profits as decided by the GM board. Reuss, who earned $14.4 million in 2022, up 14% from 2021, did not discuss executive pay in his editorial.