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In this solo episode of the Automotive Leaders Podcast, Jan Griffiths addresses the ongoing UAW strike, focusing on the president of the UAW, Mr. Shawn Fain. Jan begins by acknowledging the positive aspects of Fain's leadership, including his early communication and his personal connection to build a strong sense of community among union members.
However, the tone of the episode shifts as Jan expresses her concerns about Fain's aggressive negotiation tactics. She criticizes what she sees as a return to old-school power plays and threats. Jan points out that the automotive industry is in a period of transformation, and Fain's tactics risk damaging the industry's future. Jan also cites industry experts Sandy Munro and John McElroy, who offer different perspectives on the situation. Furthermore, Jan underscores Bill Ford's collaborative approach and vision for the industry, opposing Fain's adversarial stance, and stresses the importance of all stakeholders uniting to steer the industry through transformation, expressing her frustration with Fain's "us vs. them" mentality.
In conclusion, Jan calls on Shawn Fain to reconsider his approach, urging him to prioritize the industry's long-term interests, engage in meaningful dialogue, and work towards a mutually beneficial resolution for all parties involved in the automotive industry.
Themes discussed in this episode:
- UAW strike and leadership
- Negotiation tactics
- The need for a more collaborative approach
- The rhetorical use of emotions
- Preparation for industry transformation
- Reaching a mutually beneficial deal
Featured Guest: Jan Griffiths
What she does: Jan is the founder of Gravitas Detroit, an organization dedicated to cultivating authentic leadership in the automotive industry by providing courses, workshops, speaking events, and more. She is also the host of The Automotive Leaders Podcast.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Episode with Kate Vitasek about collaborative negotiations.
- Sandy Munro’s YouTube video
- BYD and VinFast
- Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
- John McElroy’s YouTube video. "Share the Pain, Fain"
- Episode 100th of Automotive Leaders Podcast with John McElroy
[01:36] Leadership evaluation: The episode comprehensively evaluates Mr. Shawn Fain's leadership style during the UAW strike, highlighting his approach's positive and negative aspects.
[03:54] Critique of negotiation tactics: Fain's tactics are old school, emphasizing the aggressive and adversarial methods used and their potential consequences for the automotive industry.
[07:20] Emotional rhetoric: The discussion explores the emotional language used in the strike, including terms like "corporate greed" and "eat the rich," and how these emotional arguments can distract from the essential issues.
[13:13] Collaborative vision: Bill Ford's collaborative approach and idea for the industry are contrasted with Fain's adversarial stance, emphasizing the importance of unity among all stakeholders to drive the industry's transformation.
[16:08] Jan's call for change: Jan delivers a powerful call for Shawn Fain to reconsider his approach and prioritize the industry's long-term interests. She stresses the need to work towards a mutually beneficial resolution to avoid the industry's potential downfall due to prolonged disputes.
Mentioned in this episode:
Welcome to the Automotive Leaders podcast, where we help you prepare for the future by sharing stories, insights, and skills from leading voices in the automotive world with a mission to transform this industry together. I'm your host, Jan Griffiths, that passionate, rebellious farmer's daughter from Wales, with over 35 years of experience in our beloved auto industry, and a commitment to empowering fellow leaders to be their best authentic selves. Stay true to yourself, be you, and lead with Gravitas, the hallmark of authentic leadership. Let's dive in!
Here we are, week six of the UAW strike. And today, I'm recording a solo episode for you to share my thoughts and my perspective on a name that's in the news a lot lately, and that is the President of the UAW, Mr. Shawn Fain, I would say I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Mr. Fain. Now to be clear, I don't know him personally, I've never met him. And I don't use the word hate very often. It's not really part of my makeup and my DNA. But I think as I talk through and share my thoughts with you today, you'll understand why I used it. So let's start off with the positive, shall we? The positive aspects of Mr. Fain, I hadn't even heard his name a couple of months ago. And then I saw this man started showing up in the media as he started to signal what was happening with the UAW contract, the proposed contract that was coming through, and I saw a man that was showing leadership, yes, he stood up for his people, for his members, he supported them, he truly represented their interests. And he wasn't afraid to stand up to the OEMs. Now, all of us who have been in the auto industry, we know how tough that is, we know that the OEMs yield a tremendous amount of power. And it is unbalanced. I say that, yeah, it's a bit of an understatement. And we've lived in this environment for many, many decades. So it was kind of nice to see somebody actually standing up to the OEMs, I have to admit that. So I saw, and I saw that he had the people, they were right there with him, and they will do anything for him. And that is truly one of the qualities of a great leader. He communicated brilliantly, he leveraged technology, he understood that the majority of his members were on Facebook, and he used Facebook Live, to build community, build strength, build upon that emotional, cause that personal cause. He even brought out his grandmother's Bible at some point, you know, showing how deeply personal and human that human-human connection he brought all of that out. Great. Give him 10 out of 10, for communication strategy, and the overall deal strategy, he clearly had a strategy, and in fairness to him, he signaled way early on, that this process was going to be different. He had a clear set of demands. Yes, we all scoffed at the beginning at this set of demands. But you can't argue with the fact that he was crystal clear on what he wanted for his membership, what it meant to him, and that he was on a mission to make that happen. All good points.
Now, this is where it takes a turn. We're in week six of the strike. And I just saw the notification about Arlington. The cost at this date at the recording date is over $9 billion in impact. His aggressive, draconian, power-play tactics in this negotiation are taking us back decades, we've all played this tit-for-tat game in the industry, the old command and control kind of power-play tactics where if you don't do something, I'm going to hurt you. And he's really digging in and using these threats. And we both know, we all know that there's a much better way to get to a deal, and that is using a more collaborative approach. Now, the ship sailed on that, I know that, but if you want to dive deeper into a more collaborative approach that will actually have a better impact on the business, there is data to support that statement. Go back and listen to my episode with Kate Vitasek, who is the global expert on collaborative negotiations and agreements. So yes, there's a better way, but, hey, okay, that ship sailed now, we're into the powerplay tactics. But it's taken us back decades, I thought we were way, way further beyond that. It's not 1965. It's not the 50s. This is not where we're at. We are in a period of massive transformation in this industry. And we run the risk of losing the entire auto industry in the US if this madness persists. Now, I'd like to quote, one of the guys that I truly admire and respect in this industry Sandy Munro. And Sandy covered his perspective in detail in his latest YouTube video, and I'll put a link in the show notes. But he took a look back, at what happened to the Union and the industry in the 70s. I will quote Sandy from his video, he said, "Let me tell you what happened to go from one and a half million UAW workers to 180,000 UAW workers, what happened was the invasion of Japanese vehicles, the big three shrunk to almost nothing. Why was that? That was because the UAW demanded things that, in essence, put the rest of the world, at least in North America, at a giant disadvantage." Is this history repeating itself, or could this be history repeating itself? I certainly hope not. But we've got the Chinese EV companies that are hot on our heels for this market. We've got BYD, Vinfast, they're all, some of them are here already, but itching to get in here. And here we are, in this contract with the UAW fighting for things in this draconian manner that could essentially ruin the industry. I guess, time will tell, future will play out. If you haven't listened to Sandy's YouTube video, I strongly encourage you to take a listen because he provides an incredible perspective.
Let's move on to this corporate greed discussion. Almost every sign that you see Shawn Fain holding up every Facebook life, he talks about corporate greed. So I thought, Okay, let's take a little bit deeper look into this idea of greed. What is greed? Well, first of all, "greed" is emotional and subjective, it just is, you can't truly define it. But the definition is this: Greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs. Okay. But I think we can all be accused of some level of greed, we all want or take more than we truly need. But it's very subjective. But he uses it as an emotional battering ram, to incite anger amongst his members and the general public. And it's working, because we all love to come out against corporate greed. But it's just so emotional. And he really needs to get off of these emotional segments and get stay with the facts with the data. The other emotional area that he gets into is the idea of the CEO's salary. Now, I am not going to sit here and try to defend a $28 million salary. I don't know that anybody could. Is there a discussion that we had about CEO pay in the US? Yes, probably. But that's a much, much broader discussion. And quite frankly, I don't think it's got anything to do with this negotiation. Boy, that's gonna get me some comments and responses on this video, that's for sure. But look, Mary Barra gets up every morning. And this woman makes decisions that can influence and impact entire countries, every single day. She has turned around General Motors, nobody can dispute that. So why do we keep talking about CEO salary and how much is too much? So okay, $28 million is too much. I wouldn't disagree. But then what is the right number? I don't know. I don't know what the right number is. I'm sure there's an executive comp committee that has some logic and criteria behind that to make that happen. So get off the CEO salary kick. I'm sick and tired of hearing about it. And then don't even get me started on that stupid "eat the rich" t-shirt. Oh my gosh, that was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen.
But anyway, okay, so Shawn Fain. Let's go there, "eat the rich," rich. What is rich? Isn't that also emotional and subjective? What technically is rich? Well, I don't know if you heard this, but another guy that I truly respect and admire in this industry is John McElroy. And he just published a video. And he says, and he produces the data because John always has the data to back him up to support the fact that Shawn Fain earns over $400,000, what?! His base salary with the UAW is $206,000. So that's not rich, Shawn Fain? I mean, I don't know about you, but in my book, that's in the rich threshold. So knock off wearing those stupid "eat the rich" t-shirts, please. In John's video, he also talks about, and the video is actually titled, "Share the pain, Fain", which is very clever. And he talks about the fact that Shawn Fain is not walking the talk. And he isn't if he's earning this type of salary, and his members are striking members around $500 a week. And now they're going to be out there in the bitter cold of winter. And he's doing none of that, of course, he's there for the photo ops with the media, but he is not walking the talk. So when he talks about solidarity, I'm not sure exactly what he means by that. And let's take a look at the deal itself. General Motors says that at the end of this new contract with their latest offer, the average worker will earn over $100,000 a year, including bonuses and profit sharing, and they're going to have a million dollars in retirement savings after 30 years of service, really? And this isn't enough for Shawn Fain, apparently, the salary, and the wage increases that are on the table right now are in the region of 23% across all three OEMs. That is the that puts them in the highest wage category of manufacturing workers in this country. And it's still not enough?
So let's go back to the discussion of greed, Mr. Fain, isn't this taking more than you need? I don't know. Again, it's subjective, isn't it? And it's a matter of perspective, that Shawn Fain's agenda is more than just this contract. And he has said, and I quote, that he wants to cause damage and operational chaos. And he wants to keep them, meaning the OEMs wounded for months. Doesn't sound very collaborative, and certainly not in support of an industry that's looking at massive transformation. John McElroy said on my 100th Episode podcast that we will see more change in this industry in the next seven than we have seen in the past 100. And that is going to take a change in the way that we do business, not just the product from ICE to BEV, but in the way that we conduct ourselves, our culture, our leadership, and our processes. I tell you, somebody who gets it, and that's Bill Ford. Bill Ford's speech last week was nothing short of awesome. It was all about collaboration; long-term thinking; about vision. Let me quote a part of that speech. Bill said, "This is about the future of the American automobile industry. The UAW leaders have called us the enemy in these negotiations. But I will never consider our employees as enemies." He goes on to say, "This should not be Ford versus the UAW. We're all Ford, and we will succeed or fail together. It should be Ford and the UAW versus Toyota, Honda, Tesla, and all the Chinese companies that want to enter our home market." And he says, "I always take the long view." Now that's leadership. He gets it he understands that we're in this together, and this is how we're going to transform this industry. And then Shawn Fain's response. And I quote, "I want to be crystal clear on one thing, the days of the UAW and Ford being a team to fight the other companies are over." What? We are in a period of transformation, we need to be together in this OEMs UAW suppliers, and all stakeholders to make this transition happen. This idea of it's "us vs tem" that Shawn Fain keeps perpetuating is dragging us into the mud.
This is why this is so personal to me. I quit my job five years ago to devote myself to changing the corporate culture in automotive so that we can transform this industry together. We can change the culture. At every turn, I talk about collaboration, about nurturing supplier relationships, about finding a better way, and supporting the interests of all stakeholders, we're going to have to learn to operate at lightning speed, break down silos, communicate more effectively, nurture an entirely new ecosystem of stakeholders. And we can't do that, with the old ways of doing business and the approach that we see playing out with Shawn Fain today. Not once have I heard Shawn Fain talk about the impact on the supply base to the communities, no empathy, and no compassion there. He's all about self-interest. And that's not leadership, He clearly doesn't understand the bigger picture. And what's happening in the auto industry today. He chooses to grab a hold of pieces of data. And then he emotionally charges them with words like "corporate greed" and slogans like "eat the rich". He doesn't understand that. Yes, of course, the OEMs have made record profits. And yes, I agree with you, Shawn Fain, you do need a record deal. You need a record contract, and you should have a certain amount of increase, I get that. But if you don't settle this quickly, and wrap your head around the fact that these profits that the big three are making right now are not going to last forever. And we need to reinvest that money in the future of this industry, then, quite frankly, you don't have to worry about anything because we're not going to have an automotive industry.
Shawn Fain, it's time to stand down. Get off your high horse. Get off of being the latest media sensation. Get off of wearing silly T-shirts on Facebook Lives and do what we do in business in this industry every day, and that is roll up your sleeves and make a deal. It is easy to put out a list of demands, stand firm, dig your heels in, and don't budge. Quite frankly, any bully on the planet can do that. It takes real skill to recognize what's at stake for everyone, not just yourself. Again, roll up your sleeves. Stand down, Mr. Fain, and close the deal.
Thank you for listening to the Automotive Leaders podcast. Click the Listen link in the show notes to subscribe for free on your platform of choice. And don't forget to download the 21 Traits of Authentic Leadership PDF by clicking on the link below. And remember, stay true to yourself, be you, and lead with Gravitas, the hallmark of authentic leadership.