Detroit’s Big Three automakers failed to arriveBefore their contracts expired, employees represented by the United Auto Workers union expired at midnight Thursday, sparking one of the largest strikes to hit the United States in years.
Employees at three Ford, General Motors and Stellantis plants will leave the job effective immediately, UAW President Sean Fine said in a Facebook Live address late Thursday. Factories include a General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri; Ford Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan; and the Stellantis Assembly Complex in Toledo, Ohio.
“Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will hit the big three at the same time,” he said.
Approximately 12,700 employees at those facilities will participate in the labor proceedings. During the strike, about $500 per week will be paid from the UAW’s $825 million strike fund, according to the Associated Press.
“Local residents who have not yet been invited to join the strike will continue to work under an expired agreement,” Fine said, while warning that workers at other plants may walk out if talks with automakers falter.
The work stoppage marks the first strike by Detroit automakers since GM workers struck in 2019.
“We will show our strength and unity on the first day of this historic action,” Fine said. “All options remain on the table.”
Brittney Johnson, 35, who has worked for the company for three and a half years, joined about 400 workers on a picket line outside the Ford Wayne plant on the outskirts of Detroit. A massive rally is scheduled for Friday afternoon in downtown Detroit.
“I love the job,” she said. “It’s just that we deserve more.”
At the Toledo Jeep plant, assembly line worker Candice Bowles, 52, cleaned up her workstation and walked out when the midnight bell rang. “I’m really happy that everyone stood together,” she said.
Strategically, targeting just three plants would give the UAW the flexibility to potentially shut down work at other facilities when union officials resume negotiations with automakers. It will also maintain the labor group’s strike fund, according to Benjamin Salisbury, an auto industry analyst at Hite Securities.
Why is the UAW on strike?
The UAW’s demands include a 36% pay increase across a four-year contract; Retirement benefits for all employees; Limited use of temporary workers; More paid leave, including a; and more job protections, including the right to strike against factory closures.
As talks reached an impasse on Thursday, leaders at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) said they had made multiple offers to the UAW in recent weeks in hopes of signing a new deal for the union’s 145,000 workers.
“I think they are preparing for a historic strike with all three companies,” Ford CEO Jim Farley told CBS News earlier Thursday.
“At 8 p.m. this evening at the Solidarity House in Detroit, the United Auto Workers filed its first substantive counterproposal to Ford just hours after the expiration of the current four-year collective bargain agreement,” Ford said in a later statement.
What automakers say
In response to the strike order, Stellantis said it was “deeply disappointed by the refusal of UAW leadership to engage in a responsible manner to reach a fair agreement that is in the best interests of our employees, their families, and our customers. We have immediately put the company in a difficult position.” “Emergency mode and we will make all appropriate structural decisions to protect our North American operations and the company.”
Stellantis, formed under the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler and European automaker Groupe PSA, owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, along with major foreign car brands including Citroën, Peugeot and Maserati.
GM CEO Mary Barra told CBS News on Friday that the auto giant negotiated with the UAW in good faith in hopes of avoiding a strike.
“We’ve been at the table since July 18,” Barra said, adding that GM initially received more than 1,000 requests from the labor group. He added: “We have a historic offer on the table, and we are on the table now ready to continue.”
All leaders of the Big Three said they had made reasonable counteroffers and were willing to negotiate further. Automakers confirm that they are facing pressure to keep costs and car prices low in order to compete with Tesla and foreign automakers, especially as the companies compete for a share in the rapidly growing electric car market.
GM cannot meet all of the UAW’s wage requirements because of the need to invest heavily in developing new products, especially electric vehicles, Barra said.
“We have to make sure the company is successful for the next 115 years, and that means we need to invest,” she said. “If we don’t invest in and source new products that customers want to buy, it impacts the number of vehicles we make, which directly impacts the number of people who are part of our manufacturing team.”
“Their initial offer was to pay each worker about $300,000 hourly, and work four days,” Farley said Thursday of the UAW’s demands. “This would put our company out of business.”
Fine acknowledged that automakers have raised their wage offers, but the proposals are still insufficient. Ford offered 20% interest over 4.5 years, while GM and Stellantis offered 18% and 17.5% over four years, respectively.
Analysts warn that a strike could disrupt the domestic auto industry, cause vehicle prices to rise, and lead to losses in wages and profits amounting to about $6 billion, while reducing overall US economic growth by up to 0.3%.
Michael Pearce, chief US economist at Oxford Economics, estimated that a strike by all 146,000 workers at the Big Three could lead to the shutdown of nearly a third of domestic auto production. He noted in a report that it took a year for car stocks to recover after GM workers staged a 54-day strike in 1998.
Biden: ‘Record profits were not shared fairly’
President Joe Biden on Friday sent two of his top aides to Detroit to help solve the problemexpressing sympathy for the union by noting that the Big Three automakers had seen record profits but “those record profits were not shared fairly” with workers.
The Democratic president said in brief remarks at the White House: “No one wants to be struck.” “But I respect workers’ right to use their options under a collective bargaining system and I understand workers’ frustration.”
Biden said he would send acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and her top aide Gene Sperling to Detroit to help reach a “win-win” contract for businesses and their employees.
Mr. Biden said he called during the first day of negotiations and encouraged both sides to remain at the table as long as possible.
“Companies have made some important offers,” Biden said. “But I think they should go further to ensure that record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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