Full disclosure: I used to watch WWE “Monday Night Raw” when I was in college.
It was chock full of standoffs, trash talk and silly gimmicks, such as wrestlers hitting people with bedpans and others lighting things on fire. It all happened during what is known in WWE circles as the “Attitude Era.”
I ate it up. Today, whenever I see or hear UAW President Shawn Fain, I can’t help feeling as if I’m once again watching wrestling on a Monday night in 1998.
In March, long before bargaining began, Fain warned that his union was preparing for “war against the one and only true enemy: multibillion-dollar corporations and employers who refuse to give our members their fair share.”
In early July, Fain decided against the traditional conciliatory handshake with Detroit Three executives. It’s the equivalent of a wrestler turning his back on his opponent.
And finally, on Aug. 8 — and I’m not making this up — Fain read excerpts from Stellantis’ early bargaining proposals and then chucked them in a trash can, on a live video stream.
I don’t really know why Fain is behaving like a WWE heel. Perhaps he’s trying to distance himself from the union’s previous leadership, some of whom were accused of being too cozy with the automakers and ultimately ended up criminally charged and jailed after several scandals.
Whatever the reason for the act — and let’s be honest, that’s likely what it is — I can only assume it’s good for Unifor, which represents Detroit Three autoworkers in Canada and began bargaining this month.
From a negotiating standpoint, Fain has demanded a 40-percent raise. No, that’s not a typo. He has threatened a strike. And he wants a contract that, oddly, lasts four years and eight months so it can end on International Workers’ Day. So even the nuts and bolts of Fain’s bargaining in the media, are, well, sort of nuts. And if the UAW strikes, it might do so before Unifor’s contract even expires. They are four days apart.
I can’t help thinking that Detroit Three executives are a bit put off by the theatre and maybe looking forward to sitting down with someone a little more measured and levelheaded.
Suddenly, Canada might seem like a nice, normal place to do business. Maybe our stereotypical politeness ultimately pays off. Perhaps the Detroit Three turn their attention to getting things done — and setting the wage and benefits bars — in Canada first.
Whatever happens, I envision Unifor President Lana Payne doing what I once did on a weekly basis: calmly eating popcorn, watching the madness unfold.