Striking autoworkers want to end a system that pays different wages for the same job

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Striking autoworkers want to be paid more. They also want to be paid more equally.

One of the top goals of the United Auto Workers, which began striking at three plants early Friday, is to eliminate “tiered” compensation at the Big Three U.S. carmakers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler-maker Stellantis. The union says the arrangements leave many employees with steeper climbs up the wage-and-benefits ladder than some of their colleagues.

The demand to end the practice mirrors one that UPS workers won at the nation’s biggest package carrier this summer, fueling expectations that the UAW effort could generate pushback against staggered pay elsewhere.

“The UPS deal brings more public attention to the issue of the elimination of two-tiered pay and benefit structures,” said Seth Harris, a law and policy professor at Northeastern University who was President Joe Biden’s top labor policy adviser until last year. That labor victory, he said, “puts pressure on the UAW negotiating team to do the same.”