Detroit’s big three automakers failed to catch upbefore his contract with employees represented by the United Auto Workers expired at midnight Thursday, triggering one of the largest strikes to hit the United States in years.
UAW President Shawn Fain said in a Facebook Live speech Thursday night that employees at three Ford, General Motors and Stellantis factories would leave their jobs immediately: a GM assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, and a Stellantis Assembly Complex in Toledo, Ohio.
“Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will attack the Big Three at once,” he said.
Some 12,700 employees at those facilities will participate in labor actions, the Reuters news service reports. Employees will receive about $500 a week from the UAW’s $825 million strike fund, according to The Associated Press.
“Locals who have not yet been called to join the strike will continue to work under an expired agreement,” Fain said.
He told CNN that he does not expect any negotiations on Friday, but that the parties could return to the table on Saturday.
Dozens of workers gathered outside Ford’s Wayne plant as the midnight deadline approached, while a mass demonstration was scheduled for Friday afternoon in downtown Detroit.
“We will show our strength and unity on the first day of this historic action,” Fain said. “All options remain on the table.”
The work stoppage marks the first strike at Detroit automakers since workers walked out of GM in 2019.
Why the UAW is on strike
The UAW demands include a 36% pay increase over a four-year contract; pension benefits for all employees; limited use of temporary workers; more paid time off, including a; and more labor protections, including the right to strike over plant closures.
With talks stalled 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’re preparing for a historic strike with all three companies,” Ford CEO Jim Farley told CBS News on Thursday.
Ford said in a later statement: “At 8 pm this afternoon at Solidarity House in Detroit, the United Auto Workers presented its first substantial counterproposal to Ford, just hours before the expiration of the current four-year collective bargaining agreement.”
What car manufacturers say
After the strike began, Stellantis said it was “extremely disappointed by the refusal of UAW leaders to participate responsibly to reach a fair agreement in the best interest of our employees, their families and our customers. We immediately put in place the Company in contingency mode and will make all appropriate structural decisions to protect our North American operations and the Company.”
GM added: “We are disappointed by the actions of UAW leaders, despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments. We will continue to negotiate in good faith with the union to reach an agreement. agreement as soon as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the United States. In the meantime, our priority is the safety of our workforce.”
Although the Big Three have not been willing to meet all of the UAW’s demands, they maintain that they have made reasonable counteroffers and are willing to continue negotiating. Outlining their position, automaker officials say they are under enormous pressure to keep auto costs and prices low so they can compete with Tesla and foreign automakers, especially as the companies compete for share. in the growing electric vehicle market.
“Their initial offer was to pay our hourly workers about $300,000 each and work four days,” Farley said Thursday of the UAW’s demands. “That would basically put our company out of business.”
“If the strike lasts more than three or four weeks, it will be moderately detrimental to GM and Ford’s electric vehicle strategy in 2024… As Detroit stalwarts fight with the UAW, there’s a bottle of champagne freezing in Tesla headquarters,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said in a report.
Although Fain acknowledged that automakers had increased their wage offers, the proposals remain inadequate, he said. Ford has offered 20% in 4.5 years, while GM and Stellantis offered 18% and 17.5% in four years, respectively.
The strike could disrupt the domestic auto industry, cause auto prices to rise and result in losses of nearly $6 billion in wages and profits, while reducing overall U.S. economic growth by up to 0.3%. analysts warn.