UAW Adds Two More Strike Sites, Idling 7,000 Workers

Ford Plant in Chicago, GM Factory in Michigan Targeted
UAW picketer
Union members strike for improved compensation outside of the Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex in Toledo, Ohio, Sept. 28. (Phillip L. Kaplan /The Blade via Associated Press)

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DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union says its two-week strike against Detroit automakers will spread to 7,000 more workers at a Ford plant in Chicago and a General Motors assembly factory near Lansing, Mich.

Union President Shawn Fain told workers on a video appearance Sept. 29 that negotiations haven’t broken down. but Ford and GM have refused to make meaningful progress. Jeep maker Stellantis was spared from the third round of strikes.

The union had vowed to hit automakers harder if it did not receive what it calls substantially improved contract offers as part of an unprecedented, simultaneous labor campaign against the three automakers.

The automakers’ last known wage offers were around 20% over the life of a four-year contract, a little more than half of what the union has demanded. Other contract improvements, such as cost-of-living increases, restoration of defined benefit pensions for newly hired workers and an end to tiers of wages within the union are also on the table.

The union went on strike Sept. 15 when it couldn’t reach agreements on new contracts with the automakers.

It initially targeted one assembly plant from each company. Last week, it added 38 parts distribution centers run by GM and Stellantis. Ford was spared the second escalation because talks with the union were progressing.


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“We’re moving with all three companies still. It’s slower,” Fain said after talking to workers on a picket line near Detroit with President Joe Biden. “It’s bargaining. Some days you feel like you make two steps forward, the next day you take a step back.”

The union has structured its walkout in a way that has allowed the companies keep making pickup trucks and large SUVs, their top-selling and most profitable vehicles. It has shut down assembly plants in Missouri, Ohio and Michigan that make midsize pickup trucks, commercial vans and midsize SUVs, all of which are profitable but don’t make as much money as the larger vehicles.

In the past, the union had picked one company as a potential strike target and reached a contract agreement with that company that would serve as a pattern for the others.

But this year, Fain introduced a novel strategy of targeting a limited number of facilities at all three automakers while threatening to add more if the companies do not come up with better offers.

Until Sept. 29, only about 12% of the union’s 146,000 workers at the three automakers were on strike, allowing it to preserve a strike fund that was worth $825 million before Sept. 14.

If all of the union’s auto workers went on strike, the fund would be depleted in less than three months, and that’s without factoring in health care costs.

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