The United Auto Workers (UAW) has expanded its strikes against General Motors (GM) and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler. However, the walkout at Ford has been limited to a single plant due to progress made in talks. The strikes began at noon EDT on Friday and now include 38 parts distribution centers across the United States. This adds about 5,600 workers to the 12,700 already on strike.
UAW President Shawn Fain stated that by targeting distribution centers, the strike becomes a nationwide event. He also mentioned that talks are expected to continue over the weekend. The union’s announcement was strategically managed, leaving the automakers uncertain about which facilities might be struck next. Many analysts had predicted that plants producing the companies’ most profitable vehicles would be the next targets.
However, Fain explained that the decision to expand the strike was aimed at impacting consumers trying to obtain repair parts. The distribution centers are responsible for shipping parts to dealers and retailers for car repairs. Fain emphasized that the strike would reach various locations across the country, from California to Massachusetts, from Oregon to Florida.
Picketing workers at a GM parts distribution center outside Philadelphia expressed their belief that the strike is necessary to achieve higher wages. They acknowledged that it may result in longer wait times for car repairs but emphasized the importance of fairness. Thomas Morris, a worker at the center for the past four decades, highlighted the disparity between rising car prices and stagnant wages.
Fain stated that Stellantis and GM will require significant pressure to reach an agreement. He acknowledged that there is still more work to be done.Ford shares closed up nearly 2% on Friday, indicating that Ford is serious about reaching a deal. In addition, the UAW threatened further action at Stellantis’ critical parts plants in Kokomo, Indiana, where Stellantis has four factories that produce engines and transmissions for their vehicles. Stellantis has expressed its desire to consolidate and close some of its parts distribution centers.
The UAW invited President Joe Biden to join them on the picket lines, as he has been vocal in his support for the union’s demands for better pay and benefits. A White House source confirmed that Biden will visit Michigan next Tuesday to address the strike. Former President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election, will also be in Michigan next week to speak to auto workers.
While Ford has improved its contract offer by increasing profit sharing and allowing workers to strike over plant closures, the UAW still has concerns. Phaedra Grant, a Ford employee of 34 years, participated in a UAW rally to support striking workers in Kentucky.
Ford has also agreed to convert temporary employees with at least 90 days’ employment to full-time upon ratification of a deal. This move by Ford during UAW talks is aimed at giving the company an advantage over its rivals, such as Stellantis, which has more temporary employees and has idled a plant in Illinois.
GM criticized the UAW’s leadership, accusing them of manipulating the bargaining process for personal agendas. Stellantis also made a competitive offer and expressed concerns about the union’s leadership focusing on their own political agendas. GM stated that it has made five separate offers to the union and has contingency plans in place to protect its business and customers.
Ford stated that negotiations are ongoing and that there is still work to be done before reaching an agreement. The strike, which began on September 15, involved nearly 13,000 UAW workers at plants in Missouri, Michigan, and Ohio. These plants produce popular models such as the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, and Chevrolet Colorado.
Wedbush Analyst Daniel Ives commented that the UAW’s latest move indicates a divergence in the talks.The current deal is seen as detrimental to the business models of the Detroit 3, according to an industry expert. He believes that accepting a deal solely to avoid a strike may provide short-term relief but could have negative consequences for the next three decades.
Ford’s family-controlled structure sets it apart from the other two automakers, according to Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions. He notes that while GM and Stellantis prioritize stockholder value, Ford takes a more long-term approach and values its relationship with labor.
The ongoing standoff between the automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) is causing concerns about potential prolonged industrial action that could disrupt production and impact the U.S. economy. A recent RushHourDaily/Ipsos poll revealed significant support from Americans for the striking auto workers.
The strike has become a focal point for both President Biden and Republican presidential candidates. Notably, the UAW has extended an invitation to Biden, despite not yet endorsing him for the upcoming election.
The automakers have proposed a 20% raise over 4-1/2 years, while the UAW is seeking a 40% increase. Additionally, the union aims to eliminate wage gaps between newer and older employees, as well as workers in specific component operations and assembly plants. Some progress has been made in eliminating lower wage tiers in certain component facilities at Ford and GM, but Stellantis has not agreed to raise wages at its MOPAR component operations.
The article concludes with the reporting credits and information about the author, Joe White, a global automotive correspondent for RushHourDaily based in Detroit. White has extensive experience covering the auto and transport industry and is the author of “Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry,” for which he shared a Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting in 1993.
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