Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union started a strike against Detroit’s ‘big three’ automakers on Friday 15th September after their contracts expired and no agreements were reached. Below are the latest updates.
Breaking: The UAW has expanded its stike targets at Ford and GM, sparing Stellantis from further disruption for the moment.
As the strike enters its third week, it will expand to Ford’s Chicago Assembly plant and GM’s Lansing, Michigan Assembly plant, bringing the total number of workers on the picket lines to 25,000.
Shawn Fain, president, UAW said that the union had also been planning to announce further strikes against Stellantis today, but at the last second, the carmaker called and made significant changes to its offer.
In an update to union workers, Fain commented on the recent visit from President Biden to join the picket line. “I want to be clear about one thing about the president’s historic visit,” he said. “The most powerful man in the world showed up for one reason only. Because our solidarity is the most powerful force in the world. When we stand together untied in the cause of economic and social justice, there’s nothing we can’t do.”
Ford and the UAW were thought to be close to a deal over the weekend, following the UAW’s recognition of Ford’s progress on 22nd September, but the carmaker’s announcement that it has paused work on its $3.5 billion Michigan battery plant may have set things back.
Ford said it has paused the work due to concerns about its ability to competitively operate the plant while union negotiations are ongoing. The OEM added: “We haven’t made any final decision about the planned investment there.”
Shawn Fain, president, UAW said the announcement was a “shameful, barely-veiled threat by Ford to cut jobs”.
The investment, which was announced in February, was part of Ford’s plan to localise EV battery production in the US. The 35 GWh plant in Marshall is set to make lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries for its EVs from 2026, making enough battery cells for 400,000 EVs annually.
President Joe Biden is set to visit Michigan today to join the UAW picket line in support of the ‘big three’ striking workers.
Breaking: The UAW has called a strike on all GM and Stellantis parts distribution facilities from noon today (EST).
In a Facebook Live stream, Shawn Fain, president, UAW told an audience of 50,000 viewers: “We are not going to wait around forever for a fair contract at the ‘big three’. Reinforcements are coming. We’re doing things differently this time around. Our stand-up strategy is designed to do one thing, and that’s win record contracts after years of record profits.”
He did not announce any further strikes against Ford, as they have been negotiating with the union.
”There has been some movement, particularly in the last week, and we’ve made some progress with Ford, but to be clear, we’re not done with Ford and we still have some serious issues to work through,” he said. Fain added that he wanted to recognise that Ford is negotiating, adding that with GM and Stellantis “it’s a different story”.
A total of 38 parts distrubitions locations across GM and Stellantis are being called to strike.
Fain said: “We will shut down parts distribution until those two companies come to their senses and come to the table with a serious offer.”
Stellantis has announced immediate temporary layoffs for 68 employees and 300 potential further layoffs due to the UAW strike.
In a statement, the OEM said: ”As a consequence of the strike action at the Toledo Assembly Complex, Stellantis confirms that it will immediately temporarily layoff 68 employees at the Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, due to storage constraints. All other production at this facility continues.
“In addition, we anticipate similar actions at Kokomo Transmission and Kokomo Casting in Kokomo, Indiana, affecting an estimated 300 employees at these two facilities. Stellantis continues to closely monitor the impact of the UAW strike action on our manufacturing operations.”
UAW workers have struck a ZF Group plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama which builds and supplies front axles for Mercedes-Benz, further impacting the automotive supply chain in North America. The 190 members of the union walked off the plant today after an agreement couldn’t be reached between the parties. Mercedes-Benz told Automotive Logistics it is monitoring the situation.
In Canada, Ford has avoided a labour strike by Unifor union members as the two parties reached a tentative deal that will cover 5,600 autoworkers. The union members must now ratify the deal by the end of the day.
Shawn Fain, president, UAW said the ‘Stand Up’ strike will expand at noon (EST) on Friday 22nd September if the OEMs have not made “substantial progress toward a fair agreement”.
In a video posted on the UAW’s social media sites, Fain said: “Autoworkers have waited long enough to make things right at the ‘big three’. We’re not waiting around, and we’re not messing around. Be ready to stand up.”
In a statement the same day, Stellantis said it had resumed “constructive and focused” negotiations with the UAW. The carmaker said its most recent offer was for nealry 21% in cumulative raises for hourly employees, an inflation protection measure, reduction of tiers from eight years to four, and $1 billion in retirement funding.
Strikes will affect more of Ford and GM’s facilities, according to the OEMs.
GM said it expects to pause production at its Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas due to a shortage of stampings from the struck Wentzville Assembly plant.
Ford said 600 workers at its Michigan Assembly plant, including at its body construction facility and south sub-assembly area, were told not to come to work due to the impact of the strikes.
Members of the UAW started a strike against Ford, GM and Stellantis after their contracts expired and no agreements were reached. The strike will be targeted and will start small but could grow bigger. For now, the union workers are on strike at GM’s Wentzville Assembly plant, Ford’s Michigan Final Assembly and Paint plant, and Stellantis’ Toledo Assembly plant.
The UAW said that by starting the ‘Stand Up’ strike small, it has more flexibility to avoid exhausting its strike fund, giving it the “ability to escalate all the way up to a national, all-out work stoppage if necessary”.
GM said it was “disappointed” by the union’s actions and that it would “continue in good fait with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible”. GM offered a 20% wage increase over four years, with a 10% raise in the first year (up from 18% in GM’s previous offer), a faster path to top pay, inflation protection and job security.
Ford said it “bargained in good faith in an effort to avoid a strike, which could have wide-ranging consequences for our business and the economy”. Ford offered a 20% raise over the life of a contract, cost of living adjustments, eliminated wage tiers, increased contributions to in-progression retirement savings and added more paid time off.
Stellantis said it was “extremely disappointed by the UAW leadership’s refusal to engage in a responsible manner to reach a fair agreement”, adding it “immediately put the company in contingency mode”. It made an offer to increase wages to 19.5% (it previously offered a 17.5% pay rise on 13th September) and make salaried workers hourly.
The strike could see automotive suppliers facing redundancies and possible collapse, according to lawyers from Clark Hill.