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The Big 3 Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers have stepped up their outreach to Capitol Hill in recent weeks as contracts talks faltered. A strike began a midnight at plants for all three manufacturers.
Their lobbying and influence efforts have focused on messaging and marshaling allies as the deadline approached. Big business groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, are urging the administration to work to settle the strike, which could have major economic and political ripples across the Midwest and elsewhere.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Stellantis’ FCA US have long-standing lobbying teams that together spent $11.7 million on federal lobbying efforts during the first half of the year, according to lobbying disclosures. The UAW, a major donor to Democratic coffers, spent $420,000 in the first six months of the year on federal lobbying efforts, disclosures show.
Both labor and the auto industry have been in touch with lawmakers this week.
“I’m talking to both sides,” said Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-Mich.), who added that she thought the contract negotiations are between the union workers and the companies with a limited role for lawmakers.
“Our role is making sure that the unions have the strongest possible ability to exert their right to collective bargaining,” she said in an interview.
The automakers want to avoid a strike and feel “that they put their best foot forward in the negotiating position, and the unions feel like there is more to give. . . . This is a serious and constantly escalating situation that we hope gets resolved as quickly as possible,” Scholten said.
The nation’s biggest business lobbies, including the US Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and the National Association of Manufacturers sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday urging the administration to step in to help avert a strike.
“The Administration has already employed its formal and informal convening power in the past year to help parties reach agreements in the freight railroad, West Coast port terminal, and UPS-Teamster contract negotiations. We urge you to lend similar help here,” they wrote in the letter.
The contentious negotiations could ripple into next year’s presidential and congressional elections, including in Michigan, a battleground state, as well as Ohio’s Senate race.
The union is asking for a more than 40% raise for autoworkers and is concerned about a shift toward electric vehicles costing future union jobs.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is up for re-election next year, said on the Senate floor Thursday he was standing in solidarity with the autoworkers.
“The Big 3 wouldn’t be making a dime in profit without the workers who actually make their cars and trucks,” Brown said. The workers want “their fair share.”
The Big 3 automakers employ a long list of in-house lobbyists and outside lobbying firms.
General Motors lobbied this year on such matters as “EV infrastructure and auto manufacturing supply chain,” according to its disclosures. Its outside lobbying firms include Ricchetti Inc., the former firm of Steve Ricchetti, a senior aide to Biden. Steve Ricchetti’s brother, Jeff Ricchetti, is registered to lobby for GM, according to disclosures.
FCA US, owned by Stellantis, disclosed lobbying this year on “Corporate-labor interactions and issues related to labor generally,” among other matters, according to a report filed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
Ford’s lobbying agenda this year has included issues related to electric vehicles and greenhouse gas emissions, according to its disclosure filings. It uses outside lobbying firms including Subject Matter, whose team includes Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf, and Marshall and Popp, whose name partners worked for Senate Republicans.
Hazen Marshall previously worked for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Monica Popp worked for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
GM’s PAC has raised $1.1 million as of July 31 and has donated to Scholten as well as to Reps. John James (R-Mich.), Jason Smith (R-Mo.), who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), a former president of GM’s foundation and a senior public affairs executive for the company.
“I’m walking a line tonight,” Dingell said Thursday as she left the Capitol Hill, noting that she planned to picket if no deal came together.
The UAW PAC had raised $3.6 million as of June 30 and had made some of its biggest donations to Democratic coffers, including $150,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $105,000 each to the party’s House and Senate campaign committee, according to federal election reports.
Former Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said a UAW strike would have major consequences for his state as well as the national economy. He said, politically, the union has long been a solid supporter of Democratic candidates and donated to his opponents when he was in Congress.
Once, he said, he went on a tour with UAW officials and said he quipped: “Where’s the room where they cut the check against me?”
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