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Against the New Normal

Workers successfully fought for better contracts from Detroit automakers in the latest bargaining round. But they’re still plagued by historic givebacks. by

The two-tiered system, of course, is a great boon to the companies. In recent years, the Big Three have brought down labor costs by relying more on second-tier workers, who are first hired at half rate and receive less comprehensive health care coverage and no defined pension. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages in the auto sector declined 21 percent from 2003 to 2013. These days, workers account for only about 4 to 8 percent of assembly costs.

An autoworker at Chrysler's assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  Paul Sancya / AP

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