On Friday, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain announced additional work stoppages as the union continues its historic strike against the Big Three carmakers, expanding the walkouts to a General Motors plant in Lansing, Michigan, and a Ford plant in Chicago.
In a live video broadcast on Facebook, Fain stated that union leaders are still negotiating with the automakers, but “sadly, despite our willingness to bargain, Ford and GM have refused to make meaningful progress at the table.”
He reported that 7,000 Ford and GM workers at the two facilities will leave their posts on Friday, bringing the total number of striking autoworkers to 25,000, or 17% of UAW’s roughly 146,000 members.
UAW Intensifies Strike Against Big Three Automakers
Workers at the Chicago plant produce the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave, while the Lansing facility manufactures the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator. Fain confirmed that a Lansing metal parts stamping plant will remain operational.
UAW has spared additional strikes at Stellantis. Fain mentioned that the parent company of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram has made progress in negotiations, including cost-of-living adjustments and granting workers the right to strike. “We are excited about this momentum at Stellantis and hope it continues,” Fain expressed.
The Chicago and Lansing actions are part of UAW’s “stand-up strike” — a rhetorical nod to the “sit-down” strike by GM workers in Flint, Michigan, in the 1930s.
The strike began on September 15 when nearly 13,000 autoworkers halted work at Big Three assembly plants in Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. A week later, another 5,600 workers at 38 GM and Stellantis-owned parts distribution centers in 20 states walked off the job. This activity marks the first UAW strike since auto workers walked out on GM in 2019.
“We knew going into this, the fight wasn’t going to be quick,” Fain remarked. “I’m still very hopeful that we can reach a deal that reflects the incredible sacrifices and contributions our members have made over the last decade.”
President Biden joined UAW strikers this week in Michigan on the picket line — a historically unprecedented move for a sitting U.S. president — urging them to “stick with it” and highlighting their role in saving the auto industry after the 2008 financial crisis.
What UAW Wants
UAW’s demands encompass a 36% pay raise over a four-year contract, annual cost-of-living adjustments, pension benefits for all employees, greater job security, restrictions on the use of temporary workers, and a four-day work week. Along with a wage hike, the union also seeks the elimination of a two-tiered wage system adopted by the companies after the 2008 financial crisis.
“The UAW strike is now getting nastier, with both sides digging in for what could be a long and drawn-out battle between UAW and the Detroit auto giants,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives commented in a report.
The strategy of UAW striking in weekly waves allows the union to “inflict significant disruption while minimizing the number of workers not receiving paychecks,” Benjamin Salisbury, an analyst at Height Capital Markets, noted in a report.
The Chicago and Lansing workers will now receive their compensation from UAW’s $825 million strike fund.
War of Words Intensifies
The automakers argue they’ve made reasonable counteroffers, emphasizing that UAW’s wage and other demands would challenge their competitiveness with other car manufacturers.
In a press conference on Friday, Ford CEO Jim Farley accused Fain of seeking media spotlight, quipping that the union leader “has been on TV more than Jake from State Farm.”
“If UAW’s goal is a record contract, they’ve already achieved it,” he stated. “It’s grossly irresponsible to escalate these strikes and harm thousands of families.”
Fain retorted, jesting, “Like a good neighbor, we’re available 24-7,” referencing State Farm’s famous slogan.
“I don’t know why Jim Farley is misrepresenting the state of negotiations,” Fain responded. “It might be because he’s been absent from bargaining this week, as he has for most of the past ten weeks. Had he been present, he’d know we presented Ford with a comprehensive proposal on Monday and are still awaiting a response.”
On Friday, GM officials claimed that UAW initiated more strikes “just for the headlines” and alleged that the union hasn’t replied to the company’s latest counteroffer.
“Our current, record proposal on the table offers historic wage increases and job security without jeopardizing our future,” Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing, declared in a statement. “Our sole focus remains on reaching an agreement so we can all return to work.”
With information from CBS News