UAW may expand strike as talks with Big Three automakers fail to yield breakthrough

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The United Auto Workers is expected on Friday to announce additional work stoppages at Detroit’s Big Three carmakers, expanding a strike that has already shuttered assembly plants, parts distribution centers and other facilities across more than 20 states.

UAW President Shawn Fain is scheduled to appear in a broadcast on Facebook at 10 a.m. to give an update on the status of labor negotiations with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (the parent company of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, along with a number of foreign brands). 

The UAW launched its “stand-up strike” — a rhetorical nod to the “sit-down” strike by GM workers in Flint, Michigan, in the 1930s — on September 15 when nearly 13,000 autoworkers halted work at Big Three assembly plants 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. Ford was spared, with Fain saying the sides were making headway on wage, job security and other issues.

The UAW’s demands include a 36% pay increase across 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 wants the automakers to eliminate a two-tiered wage system adopted at the companies after the 2008 financial crisis. 

For their part, the automakers say they have made reasonable counteroffers, while arguing that the UAW’s wage and other demands would make it hard to compete with other car manufacturers.

Union leaders counter that the Big Three reaped hefty profits as car prices jumped during the pandemic, while workers failed to enjoy the same benefits. 


Biden makes history on UAW picket line

The 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, said in a report.

The UAW’s next targets are likely to include plants that make some of the Big Three’s most profitable vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram pickup trucks, according to experts.

“Of note, the auto companies produce trucks at multiple factories,” Salisbury said. “Therefore the union may select only a few facilities to up the ante but continue work at others to serve as leverage if negotiations worsen.”

Striking workers are receiving pay through an $825 million fund set up by the UAW.

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