Ford Focus assembly

Back in 2007-08, U.S. automakers and the United Auto Workers union signed landmark labor contracts that included many concessions on behalf of workers to keep the companies they work for competitive. Among them was an agreement to a two-tier wage structure that allowed automakers to start hiring replacements for retirees at a lower starting wage of $14-16/hour.

As one might expect, the people who got these lower paying jobs aren't too happy about the disparity in pay anymore. They've begun to organize with the hope of repealing the two-tier wage structure in negotiations leading up to the current four-year contracts' expiration on September 14. About 50 people showed up to a rally held at a church in Detroit over the weekend to express their opposition.

These opponents claim the pay disparity causes rifts on the factory floor, effectively turning union members against each other at a time when solidarity is most important. According to The Detroit News, they also argue that the two-tier structure erodes the middle class and could lead to pay cuts for the first-tier workers who start at $28/hour.

UAW President Bob King has reportedly said that the union would like the starting wage of second-tier workers increased in the next contract, but has not committed the organization to calling for its outright repeal. The other interesting wrinkle is that union workers for both General Motors and Chrysler gave up their right to strike by accepting government-funded bailouts. Only union workers for Ford may choose to exercise that right next month if things don't go their way at the bargaining table.