“For the first time in our history, we will hit the big three all at once.” In an intervention through Facebook, Shawn Fain, the leader of the United Auto Workers (UAW), the union of the auto sector, called for a selective strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis in the United States starting today Friday, before the lack of agreement on the new collective agreement. Fain described the moment as “historic” and designed a strategy of strikes in selected factories to try to hit the companies without exhausting themselves, or exhausting their resources, with a general sector strike.
Currently, only one plant from each manufacturer has been called to strike this Friday and the plants are called rotating. “This strategy will prevent companies from being suspended. It will give our national negotiators maximum influence and flexibility and, if we have to do everything, we will do it. “Everything is on the table,” said Fain in his short speech.
The UAW represents about 146,000 employees in three groups. It has a strike fund of $845 million to pay employees who stopped receiving their salaries. With all the employees on strike, that fund barely lasts three months, because the union pays $500 a week to those on strike, plus other expenses.
The factories that will stop are the General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, which makes the GMC Canyon and the Colorado; a Ford factory in Wayne (Michigan), which assembles the Bronco model and the Ranger truck, and a Stellantis Jeep plant in Toledo (Ohio), where the Gladiator and Wrangler models are made. Less than 10% of unionized workers have called to strike, affecting some of the most profitable companies’ models.
The union has given the deadline to reach an agreement until midnight from Thursday to Friday, when the current collective agreement expires. The UAW does not want an extension of this, but a new agreement with substantial wage increases that compensate for high inflation and sacrifices made in times of financial hardship for companies.
“I encourage you to visit uaw.org/standup to learn everything you need to know about working on a finalized collective agreement. No matter what happens, we must all continue to organize rallies, protests, red shirt days and community events. We need to show the companies that we are ready to join the Stand Up strike at any time. And we must show that this horrible fight is a fair fight,” Fain said in his message.
The union has a list of demands that include a salary increase of 36% over four years, compensation for the increase in the cost of living and changes in the salary standards of the workers. New workers earn $17 an hour and it takes eight years to reach the $32 an hour wages of more senior workers. In addition, they demanded a 32-hour work week with 40 hours of pay. Ford and GM are offering 20% raises over the next term of the agreement, while Stellantis’ last known offer was 17.5%.
The UAW has called a large rally outside its headquarters in downtown Detroit this Friday afternoon. “We will show our strength and unity on the first day of this historic action This is the defining moment of our generation. The money is there. The action is on, the world is watching and the UAW is ready to rise. “This is our decisive moment,” he concluded his speech.
Ford CEO Jim Farley was pessimistic Thursday about the possibility of avoiding a strike. “It’s hard to negotiate a contract when there’s nobody to negotiate with,” Farley said, wondering if Fain was too busy planning strikes or publicity rallies. The executive believed he had made a generous offer and toured the television networks with interviews in which he said accepting the union’s demands would mean harm to the company.
“We are working urgently and proposing another stronger offer with the goal of reaching an agreement tonight,” General Motors CEO Mary Barra said in a letter to workers Thursday. . “Remember: we have a strike in 2019 and nobody won,” he added.
The strikes could weigh on the US economy at a time when it has been hit by high interest rates and inflation. The Government of Joe Biden called for an understanding between the parties.