Hyundai’s Kia subsidiary has been making vehicles in West Point since November 2009. Monday’s announcement did not include that facility, which has about 2,700 employees, according to state officials.
Hyundai follows Toyota and Honda, which also announced wage hikes in the weeks after the United Auto Workers reached historic agreements with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the parent of Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep.
American workers at Hyundai, like those at Honda and Toyota, are not represented by unions.
The UAW contracts, which have not yet been ratified by the 146,000 workers involved, provide most workers will get 25% increases within five years, which would lift top assembly line employees to about $42 per hour.
Union leadership proclaimed victory, although after painful concessions made to save automakers during the 2007-09 recession, not all of the rank-and-file agreed that they were getting what they deserved. In some plants, workers voted against accepting the deal.
Even so, competitors clearly wanted to get in front of any renewed effort to unionize their workers.
Toyota recently announced plans to boost factory pay about 10%, while Honda said it will increase wages 11%.
Officials at Hyundai and at Kia did not respond Monday to a question about their current pay range.
As part of its $1.8 billion incentive package with the state of Georgia and local leaders, Hyundai has previously said workers at the future Metaplant in Bryan County would earn more than $58,000 on average.
Labor experts have said they expected non-union automakers to respond by raising wages to head off UAW efforts to organize at the non-union plants. The UAW made no bones about hoping to use large raises in deals with the “Big Three” as an argument for organizing the many non-union plants.
For a union that is newly aggressive after many years of economic retreat and shrinking membership, Southern automaking is an attractive target.
Most of the auto assembly plants built in the United States during the past four decades have been non-union, constructed in the South, most of them owned by European and Asian companies.
Meanwhile, some older, unionized plants have closed, including a GM plant in Doraville and a Ford factory in Hapeville.
In Georgia, Hyundai is investing $12.6 billion the Bryan County plant, as well as two others that will make batteries. The company estimates its Georgia workforce within a few years will be about 12,000 employees. Hyundai suppliers, meanwhile, are hiring thousands more.
Nationally, auto workers average about $28 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.