DETROIT – The United Auto Workers union could call for a strike at any or all of Detroit’s Big Three automakers this week if a deal isn’t reached by the contract deadline.
The UAW’s contracts with General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Stellantis are set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14. After delivering the union’s demands and reportedly waiting weeks for a response from the automakers, UAW President Shawn Fain has threatened that any of the Big Three could see a strike if a deal isn’t made by the deadline.
Here’s how many UAW-represented autoworkers could strike as early as this week.
There are about 146,000 autoworkers represented by the UAW today. If a simultaneous strike is called for Ford, GM and Stellantis, a maximum of 146,000 autoworkers could strike.
Here’s how many UAW-represented autoworkers are employed at each company:
At Ford, there are more than 57,000 UAW workers.
At GM, there are about 46,000 UAW workers.
At Stellantis, there are about 43,000 UAW workers.
Autoworkers represented by the union can choose not to strike if one is called. However, if a UAW-represented auto worker chooses not to strike or crosses the picket line, they will not get weekly paychecks from the union. Striking union members will be paid weekly from the union’s strike fund.
There are tens of thousands of workers in other industries that are represented by the UAW. Their contracts are different from those with the Big Three.
Is a strike imminent?
Under Fain’s leadership, the union has been more aggressive this bargaining season, demanding a more than 40% wage increase, an end to tiered wages, cost of living adjustments, reinstated pensions, and more. The union has received counter proposals from the automakers within the last few weeks, but Fain has rejected all three of them, which don’t come close to meeting union demands.
Fain has expressed a desire to reach a deal by Thursday to avoid a strike. For the first time last week, he also said he’d be willing to be more flexible on union demands in order to come to an agreement with the automakers.
The union president, however, is adamant that autoworkers should see a significant boost in wages and benefits, and more prioritization of their work-life balance.
According to the UAW’s calculations, the Big Three made a combined total of $21 billion in profit in the first half of 2023, and a combined $250 billion in American profits in the last 10 years. Those profits, Fain says, have not translated to sufficient pay or benefits for autoworkers in the same way they have for executives.
“In the last four years, the price of vehicles went up 30%,” Fain told the AP. “Our wages went up 6%. There were billions of dollars in shareholder dividends. So our wages aren’t the problem.”
So far, the counter proposals recently announced by each company have been essentially dismissed by the union.
The UAW has made it clear that it will strike if a deal isn’t made by the Sept. 14 deadline. It’s unknown if the parties will be able to see eye-to-eye by then.
If a deal isn’t reached Thursday, a national UAW strike could be called at each of the Big Three simultaneously for the first time in history.
When was the last UAW strike?
The UAW last went on strike in 2019, when a strike was called against General Motors only.
For six weeks, 48,000 GM autoworkers were on strike in what became the longest UAW strike since 1970. The strike caused 34 plants to idle across several states.
The union had identified GM as a target for negotiations and a potential strike, and used their deal as a baseline for contracts with Ford and then-Chrysler in a process known as pattern bargaining. That process has not been followed in 2023.
Continue reading: UAW last went on strike in 2019: Here’s what happened, how things have changed since
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