The United Auto Workers union has launched a series of strikes against the three major U.S. automakers, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, after failing to reach a new contract agreement by the midnight deadline on Thursday. The strike, which involves about 12,700 workers at three key plants, is the first time in the union’s history that it has targeted all three companies at the same time.
UAW President: ‘This is our defining moment’
UAW President Shawn Fain announced the strike plan in a live-streamed address to the union members on Thursday night, less than two hours before the deadline. He said he intended to launch a series of limited and targeted “standup” strikes to shut down individual auto plants around the country, starting with three plants that produce some of the most profitable vehicles for the companies.
“This is our defining moment,” Fain said. “We have given everything we have to these companies, and now it’s time for them to give back to us.”
Fain said he would join the picket line at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, where about 3,300 workers make the Ford Ranger and Bronco models. The other two plants that went on strike at midnight are the GM Wentzville Assembly in Missouri, where about 3,600 workers make the Chevrolet Colorado and Express and GMC Canyon and Savana models, and the Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, where about 5,800 workers make the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator models.
Fain did not rule out expanding the strikes to other plants if the negotiations do not progress. He said the union has a $825 million strike fund that can support all of its 150,000 members for about three months.
UAW demands higher wages, better benefits and more job security
The UAW is seeking a new four-year contract that would include a 40% wage increase over the period, an end to the two-tier wage system that pays newer hires less than veteran workers, and a restoration of cost-of-living adjustments and other benefits that were given up in previous contracts. The union also wants more job security and investment commitments from the companies, especially as they transition to electric vehicles.
The union argues that its members deserve a fair share of the record profits and executive pay that the companies have enjoyed in recent years, as well as recognition for their sacrifices during the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
“We are not asking for anything unreasonable,” Fain said. “We are asking for what we have earned.”
Automakers express disappointment, vow to continue bargaining
The automakers expressed disappointment with the UAW’s decision to strike, saying they have offered generous and unprecedented proposals that would increase wages, benefits and investments. They said they will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach a mutually beneficial agreement as soon as possible.
“We are disappointed by the UAW leadership’s actions, despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments,” GM said in a statement. “In the meantime, our priority is the safety of our workforce.”
Ford said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the strike at its Michigan plant, saying it has been working hard to reach a fair and competitive deal with the UAW. “We remain committed to reaching an agreement that provides a strong future for our employees, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities,” Ford said.
Stellantis said it was “disheartened” by the strike at its Toledo plant, saying it has made “significant progress” in addressing the UAW’s concerns. “We will continue to work diligently and constructively with UAW leadership to reach a fair and equitable agreement that recognizes the hard work and dedication of our employees,” Stellantis said.
Strike could have significant economic impact
The strike could have a significant economic impact on both the automakers and the broader economy, especially if it lasts for a long time or spreads to more plants. According to Anderson Economic Group, a 10-day strike against all three companies would cost them about $4 billion in lost revenue and $1 billion in lost profits. It would also reduce U.S. gross domestic product by about $5 billion and federal tax revenue by about $1 billion.
The strike could also affect vehicle prices and availability, as well as consumer confidence and spending. The automakers are already facing supply chain disruptions and chip shortages that have hampered their production and sales. The strike could worsen these problems and create more uncertainty for customers.
The strike could also influence the upcoming midterm elections, as it puts pressure on President Joe Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress to support the union’s demands and pass legislation that would boost labor rights and clean energy. Biden has expressed his support for unions and workers’ right to strike, but he has also urged both sides to return to the negotiating table and reach a win-win agreement.