Union leaders have warned the ongoing Detroit autoworkers strike could spread to new facilities.
The United Auto Workers and the three big automakers held talks on Thursday, September 21.
Nearly 13,000 UAW members started the strike at General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis plants.
It has already disrupted production and raised questions about its potential economic repercussions.
The primary issues at the heart of the strike are wages and benefits for the approximately 150,000 autoworkers.
The UAW is pushing for a substantial 36 percent pay raise over four years.
The union seeks better job protections, especially given the industry’s transition to electric vehicle production, which may entail plant closures.
In contrast, automakers are offering hikes of roughly 20 percent.
UAW President Shawn Fain said: “We’re going to keep hitting the company where we need to, when we need to.”
Fain issued an ultimatum, saying if there is no “serious progress” in negotiations by noon on Friday, September 22, more workers will join the strike.
Stellantis presented a counteroffer to the UAW on Wednesday, September 20, though details of the proposal remain undisclosed.
The UAW is reviewing this offer, which marks the first from any automaker since the strike’s inception.
Simultaneously, a strike involving 190 UAW members at a Mercedes axle supplier in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, added to the labor unrest.
This strike shares similarities with the Big Three work stoppages, focusing on pay raises, improved healthcare benefits, and the elimination of employment tiers.
The UAW’s unconventional strategy involves selectively striking at specific plants while allowing others to operate.
This approach enables them to draw on their substantial $825 million strike fund more gradually, providing striking workers with $500 per week from the fund.
Another critical concern for the union is the tiered pay structure established during the 2008 financial crisis.
It involves giving newer employees lower wages and fewer benefits than their more senior counterparts.
The UAW advocates for all workers to reach top pay rates after just 90 days of employment.
In response, companies have offered to expedite pay scale advancement and boost starting wages for temporary workers by 20 percent, reaching $20 an hour.
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Automaker leaders, however, have challenged the union’s claims.
GM President Mark Reuss called their demands “untenable” given the shift towards electric vehicles.
GM and Ford have maintained their commitment to reaching an agreement with the union.
As the strike enters its seventh day, the automakers have begun issuing more temporary layoffs, citing product shortages resulting from the strike.
These layoffs include employees at plants not involved in the strike.
Both the companies said those let go are ineligible for unemployment insurance.
Despite the challenges, the UAW has stepped in to provide laid-off workers with $500 per week in strike fund benefits.