Courtesy of uaw.union/Instagram
The United Auto Workers union is ready to announce strikes at additional plants if there isn’t “serious progress” in contract negotiations with Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers — General Motors, Ford and Stellantis — by noon on Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain said Monday night.
“Autoworkers have waited long enough to make things right at the Big Three. We’re not waiting around, and we’re not messing around. So, noon on Friday, Sept. 22, is a new deadline,” Fain said in a video message released Monday night.
The UAW strike is entering its fifth day, and the walkouts at three targeted plants are already affecting operations at other facilities.
The “stand up strike” strategy involves members at targeted auto plants striking suddenly, while other members continue working under expired contracts. Members at other plants could be called to strike at a moment’s notice, and in the meantime are holding the line by refusing to work voluntary overtime, slowing production.
The goal of the stand up strike is a gradual escalation of actions across the three companies, in order to “keep them guessing on what happens next,” Fain said.
The first workers to walk off the job Thursday night were Local 2250 at the GM Wentzville Assembly Center in Missouri; Local 12 at the Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio; and Local 900 at Ford Michigan Assembly Plant – Final Assembly and Paint in Wayne.
The first three walkouts amount to around 13,000 workers, out of the nearly 150,000 represented by UAW at the Big Three.
As a result, Ford told some 600 workers not to report to the body construction department at the Michigan Assembly Plant, because the parts they make need prompt painting, and the paint shop is on strike.
GM, meanwhile, warned that some 2,000 workers at its Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan., may soon be out of work due to a shortage of necessary parts from the struck Wentzville plant.
UAW is demanding 40% wage increases, more paid time off, and increased retiree pay, along with the restoration of benefits the workers once had, including defined benefit pensions, retiree medical benefits and cost of living adjustments.
The union is also demanding the end of lower-paid employment tiers, a concession the Teamsters recently won in their new contract with UPS, in a deal that was reached under the threat of a strike. UAW is also seeking the right to strike over plant closures, and the “working family protection program,” which would have automakers pay workers to do community service work if their company leaves town.
Counteroffers that included wage increases of around 20% over four years, with an immediate 10% increase, were rejected by the union.
According to UAW, GM, Ford and Stellantis made a combined $21 billion in profits in the first six months of 2023, after raking in $250 billion in North American profits over the last decade. Their CEOs saw average pay increases of 40% in the last four years, according to the union, while members’ wages only rose about 6%, with their real wages falling due to inflation.
“So what have the Big Three done with these staggering profits? Instead of rewarding the workers who spent long hours wrecking their bodies on the line to make these profits possible, the Big Three have funneled billions into stock buyback schemes that artificially inflate the value of company shares,” Fain said in a video message to members last month.
“Record profits mean record contracts,” Fain said.
Over the weekend, President Joe Biden sent acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit to assist with negotiations.
“Over generations, auto workers sacrificed so much to keep the industry alive and strong, especially through the economic crisis and the pandemic. Workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create for an enterprise,” Biden said in a statement. “Record corporate profits — which they have — should be shared by record contracts for the UAW.”
TMX contributed to this article.
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