Pay raises loomed large in the talks, but bigger challenges await
Many of the core issues in the labor dispute between the United Auto Workers and the Big Three U.S. automakers are familiar: salary increases, sick days and pay grades.
But lurking in the background is the transition to electric vehicles and away from cars and trucks with internal combustion engines — those that run on gasoline and motor oil.
The change, which might be the biggest in the history of the auto industry, has major implications for the business and for its workers.
Read the full story here.
Workers strike at Jeep Wrangler plant in Ohio
AFL-CIO standing in solidarity with UAW
Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of 60 unions with 12.5 million members, said she fully backed the UAW and the strike.
“This fight isn’t just about auto workers and their families, this is about creating a future where everyone can prosper,” she posted on social media as the negotiation deadline expired and autoworkers walked out.
On strike and on the line
GM says its ‘unprecedented economic package’ wasn’t enough
GM said that before time ran out, it had made “historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments” and offered an unprecedented economic package in an effort to reach a deal with the union.
It said in a statement early this morning that it’s ready to return to negotiations and get people back to work as quickly as possible, “for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the U.S.”
Contract negotiations fell short
The union had been negotiating with all three automakers simultaneously, in a break from previous rounds of contract talks.
Leaders on both sides have publicly alleged that their counterparts across the table weren’t talking talks seriously.
Striking three companies at once a first for UAW
Never before in the union’s 88-year history have its members been on strike against all three of the Big Three companies at the same time.
In what Fain is calling a “stand-up strike,” about 13,000 workers at three plants in Missouri, Michigan and Missouri were the first to walk off.
Why those three sites?
In picking the first three sites to strike, the union didn’t go after the companies’ big cash cows, which are full-size pickups and big SUVs, and went more for plants that make vehicles with lower profit margins, said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit.
“They want to give the companies some space without putting them up against the wall,” Masters said. “They’re not putting them right into the corner. You put an animal in the corner and it’s dangerous.”
About the first plants set to strike
GM’s Wentzville Assembly plant (Local 2250, Region 4) has about 3,600 members. It produces Chevrolet Colorados and Expresses and GMC Canyons and Savanas.
In Toledo, Ohio, about 5,800 members at the Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex (Local 12, Region 2B) will walk off. They make the Jeep Wrangler and the Gladiator.
The Ford Michigan Assembly Plant — Final Assembly and Paint (Local 900, Region 1A) in Wayne has about 3,300 members. It produces the Ford Ranger and Bronco.
The UAW strike is officially on
The UAW is officially walking off the job after it failed to reach agreements on a new contract with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler maker Stellantis.
It’s the first time the union has gone on strike since its now-expired contract was ratified in 2019.
Whitmer says both sides should be looking for wins
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has autos top of mind.
She spent part of today at the Detroit Auto Show, checking out new makes and models.
But she said her office has been in touch with the UAW and the Big Three automakers for the last month and a half about labor negotiations.
She said they need to come to an agreement that works for all parties. It’s possible to reach a deal that benefits both the UAW and the Big Three, she said.
Whitmer said she has been in contact with President Joe Biden and federal officials regularly about the possible strike and contract negotiations.
Ford says it’s got future of workers — and company — in mind
As the threat of a UAW walkout grew nearer, Ford said it was doing its part to avoid a strike.
“Ford has bargained in good faith in an effort to avoid a strike, which could have wide-ranging consequences for our business and the economy. It also impacts the very 57,000 UAW-Ford workers we are trying to reward with this contract,” it said in a statement late tonight.
It said it had employees and the future top of mind in the negotiations.
“Ford remains absolutely committed to reaching an agreement that rewards our employees and protects Ford’s ability to invest in the future as we move through industry-wide transformation,” the statement said.
Starting small would let UAW stretch its strike fund
Estimates have projected that the union’s $825 million fund, designed to pay eligible workers $500 a week while picketing, would support a strike of up to 11 weeks by its 146,000 members at all three automakers.
By targeting just one plant at each of the Big Three at first, the UAW could make that money go further.
It would need to distribute strike pay to just the 12,700 workers at the three chosen sites initially.
Walkouts set for three sites in three states
Fain said three units, one at each of the three manufacturers, would be the first to picket, starting at midnight.
Those sites are:
- GM: Wentzville, Missouri, Assembly Plant
- Stellantis: Toledo, Ohio, Assembly Plant
- Ford: Wayne, Michigan, Assembly Plant — Final Assembly & Paint
The UAW plans a major rally for downtown Detroit on Friday afternoon.
With clock ticking, UAW makes plans to walk
Two hours before the deadline, Fain told members to be prepared to strike.
“We will strike all three of the Big Three at once,” he said, adding that negotiations continue and a deal could still be reached before midnight.
Biden in touch with UAW and auto companies
Hours before the deadline, the White House said President Joe Biden had been in touch with UAW President Shawn Fain, as well as leaders of the major auto companies, to discuss the status of ongoing negotiations.
The White House says the administration has been monitoring the economic implications of a possible strike.
Tense negotiations led to accusations from both sides
The UAW late last month filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing GM and Stellantis of failing to bargain in good faith and in a timely fashion.
The automakers have denied the accusations.
Automakers push back
Ford, GM and Stellantis have said they negotiated in good faith and have pushed back against union demands they say are excessive — in some cases warning that big pay hikes could cut into investments needed to make the transition to electric vehicles.
Read the full story here.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism