The UAW is launching a strike at assembly plants belonging to General Motors and Ford, adding 7,000 workers to the union’s ongoing walkout against the Detroit Three automakers.
After delaying the start of a planned Facebook Live appearance by more than 30 minutes to field some last-minute offers from the three automakers, UAW President Shawn Fain says the union elected to expand the strike at GM and Ford because of the lack of progress during the bargaining. So far 25,000 of the 150,00 union members at GM, Ford and Stellantis are on strike.
Walkouts at GM’s Delta Township (MI) assembly plant and Ford's Chicago Assembly plant begin today.
The last-minute proposal from Stellantis, however, was substantial enough not to add more of the company’s plants to the “Stand-Up Strike” the UAW began Sept. 15, Fain says. “We’re excited about the progress at Stellantis,” says Fain, who has criticized the company throughout the negotiations.
However, after sparing Ford in the second wave of targeted strike, the union elected to hit the company again because of what the UAW leader described as a lack of progress.
Fain says the UAW’s negotiations with the automakers have been intense during the past week since uncorroborated reports surfaced the UAW has scaled back its demands for a wage increase from 40% to 30%. Sources familiar with the UAW’s position are refusing to comment on the reports.
No agreement, however, has been reached on other UAW demands revolving around tiered wages, cost-of-living increases, pensions, a 32-hour work week and the status of workers at the battery plants in which Detroit’s three automakers have a stake, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
In a media briefing shortly after the added strike locations were announced, Ford President and CEO Jim Farley says the company continues to negotiate and improve on its Sept. 12 offer that included more than 20% in wage increases, cost-of-living allowances and elimination of tiered wages, among other benefits.
“If the UAW’s goal is a record contract, they have already achieved this,” Farley says in a statement. “It is grossly irresponsible to escalate these strikes and hurt thousands of families.”
During the briefing, Farley says battery plants have become a major issue in what he describes as preordained strike.
"We have offered an incredible deal. We believe the UAW is holding up the deal over battery plants that won't come on line for two or three years yet,” the Ford chief says.
Farley acknowledges Ford paused construction of a new battery plant in Marshall, MI, because the outcome of the negotiations could determine the size of plant.
GM, in an emailed statement, says it still has not received a comprehensive counteroffer from UAW leadership to its Sept. 21 proposal.
“Calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress,” the statement says. “The number of people negatively impacted by these strikes is growing and includes our customers who buy and love the products we build.”
Picket Line Violence Alleged
In a move that added to the tensions surrounding the negotiations, Fain is attacking GM and Stellantis for inciting picket-line violence.
“Shame on GM and Stellantis for hiring scabs and standing by while they injure and threaten the lives of their employees,” says Fain, in a YouTube video posted on the UAW website. “We will not tolerate violence against our picket lines from the companies or the scabs they hire.”
Fain alleges on Sept. 26 five UAW pickets were struck by a vehicle leaving the GM parts depot in Swartz Creek outside Flint, MI. In another incident, guns were pointed at UAW pickets by contractors crossing a union picket line at a Stellantis parts depot in Ontario, CA, the union alleges.
“We are appalled by the UAW’s characterization of the incidents occurring on the picket lines,” Stellantis says in a statement that alleges in the past week “an escalation of dangerous, and even violent, behavior by UAW picketers at several of those facilities, including slashing truck tires, jumping on vehicles, following people home and hurling racial slurs at dedicated Stellantis employees who are merely crossing the picket line to do their jobs.”
Stellantis says it has not hired any outside replacement workers and that only current employees and third parties making deliveries as they normally would are entering company facilities.
In the Flint incident, Genesee (MI) Metropolitan Police have requested a warrant for the arrest of a 19-year-old suspected of striking picketing employees with his vehicle while attempting to exit the Flint Processing Center. The worker is employed by a housekeeping contractor.
GM is cooperating with local authorities in their investigation and says “the health and safety of all employees is General Motors’ overriding priority.”
GM also says it told the subcontractor that the suspected employee along with two other employees who were in the vehicle at the time are no longer allowed on any GM property.
“Additionally, we have conducted safety talks at all GM facilities with active picketing activity to reinforce the expectation and requirement that any employees who experience picketers blockading entry or exit to our property contact site security to help them safely proceed past the picketing employees” GM says.
In October 2019, a 55-year-old UAW member was killed in what police determined was an accident while picketing outside an assembly plant in Spring Hill, TN, during a strike against GM.