United Auto Workers Makes Wage Claims Amid CEO Compensation Increases: An In-depth Analysis

by Madison Thomas
United Auto Workers Wage Demands

A central tenet of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union’s recent negotiations has been the substantial increase in CEO pay among Detroit’s Big Three automakers over the past four years. UAW President Shawn Fain has continually emphasized that CEO pay increased by 40% in that period, thereby arguing that autoworkers should receive comparable raises. Fain initially demanded a 40% wage hike over four years for workers, along with pension restoration and cost-of-living adjustments. Although the UAW has since moderated its stance to a 36% wage hike, there remains a considerable chasm between the union and the automakers, prompting labor strikes.

Fain’s argument is consistent with a broader labor movement trend that invokes the wage disparity between executives and average employees to advocate for improved pay and conditions. Recent instances of shareholder activism, such as Netflix investors rejecting executive pay packages, underscore this sentiment. These shareholder moves followed open letters from the Writers Guild of America, which denounced inflated executive pay during ongoing industry strikes.

The UAW’s demands have also met criticism suggesting that increased labor costs would render American automotive companies—General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler)—less competitive on the global stage, particularly in the electric vehicle market. However, Fain retorts that this is a non-issue, citing that “over the last four years, vehicle prices increased by 30%, our wages rose by 6%, CEO pay surged by 40%, and shareholders received billions in dividends.”

Scrutinizing CEO Pay Increases

While the 40% figure cited by the UAW has become a focal point of discussions, its accuracy is under question. General Motors CEO Mary Barra questioned the provenance of the number, highlighting the complexities involved in calculating executive pay, which often includes stock options and grants.

CEO Compensation: A Closer Look

In terms of raw numbers, Mary Barra’s compensation stood at $28.98 million in 2022, with stock grants making up $14.62 million of this amount. Her compensation has seen a 34% increase since 2019, according to data provided by Equilar.

Ford CEO James Farley had a total compensation of nearly $21 million in 2022, marking a 25% increase from William Clay Ford’s $16.76 million in 2019. The Stellantis situation is more complex due to its European origins and recent merger. CEO Carlos Tavares’ 2022 pay of 23.46 million euros shows a roughly 77% increase over Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley’s 2019 pay. However, the comparison is skewed by differing methods of reporting “realized pay.”

The Complicated Reality of CEO Pay

While the UAW calculated an average CEO pay increase of 40.1% since 2019 across the three companies, this figure has caveats. Notably, the way Stellantis reports executive compensation skews the numbers. Equilar’s analysis suggests that Tavares’ compensation actually declined by 24% compared to his predecessor when using a “grant date” method.

The Stark Pay Disparity

Regardless of the method employed to calculate executive pay, the gulf between CEOs and average workers is immense. A median worker at GM, Ford, or Stellantis would have to work hundreds of years to match their respective CEOs’ annual pay.

International and Historical Context

The Detroit 3 automakers highlight that their foreign competitors pay significantly less to their workforce, at about $40 to $45 per hour including benefits, compared to the Detroit 3’s $60 per hour. Tesla offers another interesting case. Despite CEO Elon Musk’s official 2022 compensation being reported as zero, his “realized compensation” in 2021 was over $737 million. This illustrates another extreme in executive-worker pay disparity.


The UAW’s current negotiation stance highlights the contentious issue of income inequality within the automotive sector and beyond. While arguments about the specifics of CEO pay increases continue, the broader issue of a widening wage gap remains at the forefront. Whether this catalyzes meaningful change in labor compensation remains to be seen.

Contributions by AP Auto Writer Tom Krishner in Detroit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about United Auto Workers Wage Demands

What is the main argument of the United Auto Workers (UAW) for demanding wage increases?

The UAW argues that if Detroit’s Big Three automakers have increased CEO pay by around 40% over the past four years, it is only fair that the workers should receive similar raises. The UAW initially demanded a 40% wage increase over four years but later revised it to 36%.

What counter-argument do the automakers present against UAW’s wage demands?

The automakers counter that significant wage increases for unionized workers would drive up the costs of vehicles, thereby making them less competitive against foreign automakers with lower labor costs, particularly in the rapidly evolving electric vehicle market.

How accurate is the UAW’s claim that CEOs received a 40% pay hike?

The claim is a point of contention. General Motors CEO Mary Barra indicated that the figure might not be accurate. A detailed look at executive compensation shows that while CEO pay has increased, the percentage varies and is influenced by complex factors like stock grants and company performance.

What is the role of executive pay in the broader labor movement?

Executive pay has become a focal point for labor unions advocating for better wages and work conditions. Examples include Netflix shareholders rejecting executive pay packages and the Writers Guild of America urging investors to vote against high executive compensation.

How large is the pay gap between CEOs and regular workers at these companies?

The pay gap is considerable. At General Motors, for example, the median worker pay was $80,034 in 2022, and it would take 362 years for such a worker to earn what CEO Mary Barra made in a year. Similarly, at Ford and Stellantis, the figures suggest extreme disparities in pay between the workforce and top executives.

What unique case does Tesla present in this discussion?

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk had a reported compensation of zero in 2022 according to the company’s proxy statement. However, his “realized compensation” in 2021 was over $737 million. A typical Tesla worker earned $40,723 in 2021, and it would take more than 18,000 years for such a worker to earn what Musk did in that year.

How does the current CEO-to-worker pay ratio compare to historical and industry standards?

The current pay ratios at the Big Three automakers are significantly higher than the typical pay gap at S&P 500 companies, which was 186-1. Historically, the ratio was just 15-1 in 1965 among the largest publicly traded U.S. firms, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.

More about United Auto Workers Wage Demands

  • United Auto Workers Official Site
  • Equilar Executive Compensation Analysis
  • Economic Policy Institute CEO-to-Worker Pay Ratio Study
  • General Motors 2022 Annual Report
  • Ford 2022 Annual Report
  • Stellantis 2022 Annual Report
  • Writers Guild of America Official Statement on Executive Pay
  • Netflix Shareholder Meeting Minutes
  • Tesla 2022 Proxy Statement

You may also like


FinanceGuru September 17, 2023 - 9:10 pm

Ah, the age-old debate of labor vs. management. But let’s not forget companies need to stay competitive too, especially with the EV race heating up.

JohnDoe42 September 17, 2023 - 11:51 pm

Wow, I never realized how big the pay gap really is. UAW is kinda onto something here, eh? The numbers are jarring.

GreenFuture September 18, 2023 - 3:34 am

Transition to EVs is important, but not at the cost of exploiting labor. Needs to be a balance somewhere.

CryptoKing September 18, 2023 - 3:47 am

CEO pay is so convoluted, it’s crazy. Stock options, grants, bonuses… and yet the avg worker is supposed to make do with a simple wage.

EconWatcher September 18, 2023 - 6:55 am

this article does a great job breaking down the complexities. Not everything is black and white, especially when you start looking at global competition.

PoliticNerd September 18, 2023 - 8:19 am

I’m glad the unions are pushing back. The income disparity is huge, and it’s high time someone took a stand.

AutoEnthusiast September 18, 2023 - 10:20 am

Interesting read. I always thought it was simple, you work hard you get paid more. But it’s way more complex, especially with CEOs.

SallyQ September 18, 2023 - 11:11 am

so the CEOs are raking in millions and workers just get crumbs? This has got to change.


Leave a Comment

BNB – Big Big News is a news portal that offers the latest news from around the world. BNB – Big Big News focuses on providing readers with the most up-to-date information from the U.S. and abroad, covering a wide range of topics, including politics, sports, entertainment, business, health, and more.

Editors' Picks

Latest News