UAW members start strikes at three major auto plants
Thousands of United Auto Workers members kicked off strikes at three major US assembly plants of the Detroit automakers.
These strikes happened late Thursday night (September 14) at factories operated by General Motors (GM), Ford Motor, and Stellantis.
It resulted from unsuccessful negotiations between the union and the automakers for a new labor contract.
UAW said on social media X: “The UAW Stand Up Strike begins at all three of the Big Three.”
The affected facilities are:
- GM’s midsize truck and full-size van plant in Wentzville, Missouri.
- Ford’s Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV plant in Wayne, Michigan
- Stellantis’ Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plant in Toledo, Ohio.
Notably, in Ford’s case, only workers in the paint and final assembly departments participated in the strike.
Shawn Fain, UAW President, said: “We got to do what we got to do to get our share of economic and social justice in this this strike.
“We’re going to be out here until we get our share of economic justice. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes.”
These selected plants are known for producing highly profitable vehicles that remain in high demand.
Approximately 12,700 workers are participating in the strike, comprising 5,800 at Stellantis, 3,600 at GM, and 3,300 at Ford.
The UAW represents around 146,000 workers across Ford, GM, and Stellantis.
Fain said: “If they come to the pump and they take care of their workers, we’ll be back to work,” referring to the automakers.
“But if they don’t, we’ll keep amping it up.”
This strike follows a targeted plan initially revealed by Fain on Wednesday night.
Fain had been simultaneously negotiating with all three automakers and had been reluctant to compromise significantly on the union’s demands.
He referred to the union’s strategy as a “stand-up” strike.
Fain drew a parallel to the historic “sit-down” strikes conducted by the UAW in the 1930s.
The union demanded a 40 percent increase in hourly pay, a reduced 32-hour workweek, a return to traditional pension plans, and elimination of compensation tiers.
UAW also sought the reinstatement of cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), alongside enhanced retiree benefits and improved vacation and family leave benefits.
Even with President Joe Biden’s involvement in the negotiations, it became evident by late Thursday that a deal was unlikely to be reached.
The White House confirmed that President Biden had engaged with Fain and the leaders of the Detroit automakers.
On Thursday night, Ford said the UAW presented its “first substantive counterproposal” to four of the firm’s offers, but it “showed little movement from the union’s initial demands.”
It said: “If implemented, the proposal would more than double Ford’s current UAW-related labor costs, which are already significantly higher than the labor costs of Tesla, Toyota and other foreign-owned automakers in the United States that utilize non-union-represented labor.
“The union made clear that unless we agreed to its unsustainable terms, it plans a work stoppage at 11:59 p.m. eastern.”
While the automakers had presented proposals addressing some of the UAW’s ambitious demands, they did not meet all of them.
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Their offers included wage increases of around 20 percent, COLA adjustments, modified profit-sharing bonuses, and improved vacation and family leave benefits.
However, the union found these offers insufficient.
Although not uncommon, targeted strikes typically focus on specific plants that can disrupt production at other facilities due to parts shortages.
Fain’s approach to work stoppages, which entails initiating targeted strikes at select plants and potentially expanding them based on negotiation progress, is unique.