Detroit’s Big Three automakers couldn’t reachIt was one of the largest strikes to hit the United States in years before their contract with workers represented by the United Auto Workers expired at midnight Thursday.
Workers at three factories — Ford, General Motors and Stellandis — will walk off the job immediately, UAW President Shawn Fine said in a Facebook Live address late Thursday. Factories include the GM Assembly Plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan; and Stellandis Assembly Complex in Toledo, Ohio.
“Tonight, for the first time in our history, we’ll be hitting all three big three at once,” he said.
About 12,700 employees at those facilities will participate in labor actions. During the strike, they will be paid $500 a week from the UAW’s $825 million strike fund, the Associated Press reported.
“Locals who have not yet been called to join the stand-up strike will continue to work under the expired contract,” Fine said, while warning that workers at other plants could walk out if further negotiations with automakers fail.
The strike marks the Detroit-based automaker’s first strike since workers walked out of GM in 2019.
“We will show our strength and unity on the first day of this historic operation,” Fine said. “All options are on the table.”
Brittney Johnson, 35, who has worked for the company for about 3 1/2 years, joined about 400 workers in the picket outside the Ford Wayne plant in suburban Detroit. A mass rally is planned for Friday afternoon in downtown Detroit.
“I like work,” she said. “We deserve more.”
At the Toledo Jeep plant, assembly line worker Candace Bowles, 52, cleaned her workstation and left when the midnight bell struck. “I’m so glad that everybody stood together,” he said.
Strategically, targeting just three plants would give the UAW flexibility in stopping work at other facilities while union officials resume negotiations with automakers. It would also protect labor union strike funding, according to Benjamin Salisbury, auto industry analyst at Hyde Securities.
Why is the UAW on strike?
The UAW’s demands include a 36% wage increase in a four-year contract; Retirement benefits for all employees; Limited use of temporary workers; More paid holidays, incl; Many job protections, including the right to strike in connection with plant closures.
As talks stalled Thursday, leaders of Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) said they had made several offers to the UAW in recent weeks in hopes of signing the union’s 145,000 workers to a new contract.
“I think they’re preparing for a historic strike with all three companies,” Ford CEO Jim Farley told CBS News on Thursday.
In a later statement, Ford said, “At 8 p.m. today at Solidarity House in Detroit, the United Auto Workers presented its first substantive counter-proposal to Ford within hours of the expiration of the current four-year collective bargaining agreement.”
What Automakers Say
In response to the strike order, Stellandis said, “We are deeply disappointed by UAW leadership’s refusal to responsibly engage in reaching a fair agreement for the benefit of our employees, their families and our customers. We have immediately absorbed the company. We will take all appropriate structural decisions to protect the contingency system and our North American operations and the company.” .”
Stellantis, formed under a 2021 merger between 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 car company had negotiated in good faith with the UAW in hopes of avoiding a strike.
“We’ve been on the table since July 18,” Barra said, adding that GM initially received 1,000 requests from the labor group. “We have a historic offer on the table, and we’re ready to be on the table now.”
All the Big Three leaders said they had made reasonable counter-offers and were open to further talks. Automakers are under pressure to keep prices and car prices low as companies compete with Tesla and foreign automakers, especially for a share of the fast-growing electric vehicle market.
Barra said GM cannot meet all of the UAW’s wage demands because of the need to invest heavily in developing new products, especially electric vehicles.
“We have to make sure the company is going to be successful for the next 115 years, and that means we have to invest,” he said. “If we’re not investing in new products that customers want to buy, that affects the number of vehicles we build, which directly affects how many people are on our production team.”
“Their initial offer is to pay our hourly workers $300,000 each and work four days,” Farley said of the UAW’s demands Thursday. “It would basically put our company out of business.”
Fine acknowledged that automakers have raised their wage offers, but he said the proposals were not enough. Ford has delivered 20% over 4.5 years, while GM and Stellantis have delivered 18% and 17.5% over four years, respectively.
Analysts warn that the strike could disrupt the domestic auto industry, drive up car prices, and lead to nearly $6 billion in lost wages and earnings, while reducing overall U.S. economic growth by up to 0.3%.
A strike by all 146,000 workers in the Big Three could shut down nearly a third of domestic auto production, estimated Michael Pearce, a leading US economist at Oxford Economics. He noted in a statement that it took a year for auto inventories to recover after GM workers staged a 54-day strike in 1998.
Biden: “Record Profits Not Shared Fairly”
President Joe Biden sent two of his top aides to Detroit on FridayThe Big Three automakers have seen record profits but “those record profits have not been fairly shared with workers,” sympathizes with the union.
“No one wants to strike,” the Democratic president said in brief remarks at the White House. “But I respect the right of workers to exercise their options under the collective bargaining system, and I understand workers’ frustration.”
Mr. Trump said he would send Labor Secretary Julie Sue and senior aide Jean Sperling to Detroit to help reach a “win-win” deal for the companies and their workers. Biden said.
During the first day of negotiations, Mr. Biden said.
“Companies have made some significant offers,” said Mr. Biden said. “But I believe they should go further to ensure that corporate profits are record contracts for the UAW.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report