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Fain: UAW to Strike Specific Plants at All 'Big Three' Automakers

Written by Michael Cowden

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union will strike specific plants across all “Big Three” automakers if new labor contracts are not reached by midnight on Thursday.

The move would mark the first time the UAW has struck Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis at the same time, UAW president Shawn Fain said in speech broadcast on Facebook Live on Wednesday evening.

“To win, we’re likely going to have to take action,” Fain said. “We are preparing to strike these companies in a way they’ve never seen before.”

“We are down to the wire,” he added. “The companies need to come to the pump.”

The speech was attended by more than 30,000 people. SMU also took notes.

“Stand Up” Strike

The UAW will use a tactic Fain described as a “stand up” strike. He compared it to the “sit down” strikes of the 1930s. It will see individual local unions – whether at assembly plants or at parts distribution facilities – stop work when called to do so.

The news confirmed earlier reporting from local media that cited anonymous sources.

The goal is to “create confusion” at the automakers and to leave them “guessing what’s next.”

Fain said he would announce which local unions would be going on strike on Facebook Live on Thursday at 10 pm Eastern Time. He said the UAW would use successive waves of strikes – whether at single plants or across multiple locations – to ratchet up pressure on them at the negotiating table.

Fain stopped short of calling for a mass strike against all three automakers, something he acknowledged was what some union members would have preferred. But he didn’t rule one out, either.

“I completely understand that desire,” he said. “We are keeping all or our options open.”

UAW members not on strike will continue to work under the terms of their expired agreement, he said.

Not Enough Progress

“We are seeing movement from the companies, but it is not enough to make up for inflation on top of decades of falling real-world wages,” Fain said.

He said Ford had agreed to pay wage increases of 20%, General Motors to increases of 18%, and Stellantis to increases of 17.5% – all significantly above what they had offered initially.

But the two sides remain far apart on other issues.

Fain said those issues included cost of living adjustments (COLA), benefits for both current and retired employees, and the removal of a two-tiered system in which newer hires earns less than veteran employees.

Bernie Coming to Motown

Fain framed the strike as “class warfare” against what he was calling the “billionaire class.” He deployed fire-and-brimstone rhetoric, lambasting income inequality, “unchecked corporate greed” (notably in the form of share buybacks), and what he said was “corrupt” prior UAW leadership.

He also noted that the UAW would not be bargaining on Friday, Sept. 15, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will join the union for a rally in Detroit.

A progressive, Sanders has campaigned in past years to be US president.

Automakers React

Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis said in official communications that they had offered progressively better contracts to the UAW.

All three said they hoped to reach a deal before midnight on Thursday. Some also warned that a strike would do serious harm to the union-represented auto industry.

Ford said it had presented four offers, each more generous than the last, to the UAW. They included wages increases, cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), and up to five weeks’ vacation along with 17 paid holidays.  

The automaker said it had yet to receive a “genuine” counteroffer from the union.

“We should be working creatively to solve hard problems rather than planning strikes or PR events,” Ford president and CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.

“The future of our industry is at stake. Let’s do everything we can to avert a disastrous outcome,” he added.

GM president Mark Reuss in a letter to employees sounded a similar note.

GM has offered not only substantial wage increases but also investments in GM’s US plants. The company continued to bargain with the UAW ahead of the potential strike, he said.

“Anything that disrupts what we can deliver to our customers is a setback for all of us,” Reuss added.

Stellantis – the Netherlands-based owner of well-known US brands such as Dodge, Jeep, and Ram – also said its goal was to reach an agreement before midnight on Thursday.

The company has put three contract offers before UAW and continued to meet with union negotiators, said Tobin Williams, senior vice president of North American human resources.

“The future of our represented employees and their families deserves nothing less,” he said.

Michael Cowden

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