Steel Markets

UAW Begins 'Stand Up' Strike at Ford, GM, and Stellantis

Written by Michael Cowden

The United Auto Workers (UAW) launched its “stand up” strike just after midnight on Friday, according to posts on the union’s Facebook page.

“We are the union! The mighty, mighty union,” UAW members with “On Strike” signs chanted in a video posted to the site.

The move came after union president Shawn Fain suggested that a strike at midnight on Thursday was all but guaranteed unless the “Big Three” automakers offered better contract terms.

Fain called for “stand up” strikes against three facilities – one each at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis – if a deal was not reached at the last minute.

“Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will strike all three of the Big Three at once,” he said in a speech broadcast on Facebook Live at 10 pm Eastern.

The strike started two hours later.

Three ‘Stand Up’ Strike Targets at the Big Three

Here are the three plants Fain called on to strike at midnight:

  1. GM’s Wentzville Assembly Plant in Missouri. The plant employs more than 4,000 people, according to the company’s website. It makes the Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck and the Chevrolet Express van as well as the GMC Canyon pickup truck and the Savana passenger van.
  2. The Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio. Toledo Assembly makes the Jeep Gladiator and the Jeep Wrangler.
  3. Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Mich. But only the final assembly and paint shops! Michigan Assembly makes the Ford Bronco SUV and the Ford Ranger pickup truck.

Fain reiterated that the “stand up” strikes, a reference to the “sit down” strikes of the 1930s that spread beyond the automotive sector, would continue until a new labor contract was reached.

“This strategy will keep the companies guessing. It will give our national negotiators maximum leverage and flexibility in bargaining,” he said, noting that the strike could be expanded quickly.

“And if we need to go all out, we will. Everything is on the table,” Fain added. “We must show the companies that you are ready to join the stand-up strike at a moment’s notice.”

A list of GM plants is here. Stellantis plants are here. And Ford plants are here.

What About Non-Union Competition?

Ford blasted the move. The automaker said the UAW had presented it with its first “substantive” counteroffer at 8 pm ET, only two hours before Fain took to Facebook and just four hours before the strike deadline.

The UAW has made “little movement” from an initial set of demands submitted on Aug. 3, Ford said.

“If implemented, the proposal would more than double Ford’s current UAW-related labor costs, which are already significantly higher than the labor costs of Tesla, Toyota and other foreign-owned automakers in the United States that utilize non-union-represented labor,” the company said.

That echoed comments on Thursday evening from GM chair and CEO Mary Barra, who said the automaker had made a “compelling” offer. She said it addressed union concerns about wages, job security, and continued investments in the company.

“Make no mistake, if we don’t continue to invest, we will lose ground, and it will happen fast,” Barra said. “Our competition across the country and around the world – most of whom are non-union – will waste no time seizing the opportunity we’ve handed them.”

“Nobody wins in a strike,” she added.

The Impact on Steel

CRU principal analyst Josh Spoores said the strike would cut off the “most concentrated” source of steel demand.

“The longer these strikes last, the more likely we will see multiple furnaces idle,” Spoores said. “Additionally, we will likely see the extension of other maintenance outages that are already taking place.”

“Mills must cut back on production in order to keep sheet prices from crashing,” he said.

Michael Cowden

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