On Friday, September 15th, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union initiated a strike against the big three United States automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis. This marked the first time in the union’s history that it has simultaneously struck against all three of America’s unionized automakers.
Workers from three plants, one from each automaker, in Missouri, Michigan, and Ohio, walked out. The UAW has termed this action as a “Stand Up Strike,” describing it as a strategic new approach to their traditional walkouts.
The union says, “As time goes on, more locals may be called on to “Stand Up” and join the strike. This gives us maximum leverage and maximum flexibility in our fight to win a fair contract at each of the Big Three automakers.”
The union’s decision to strike came after the automakers rejected the union’s demands for increased wages, benefits, and job protections. Despite the automakers offering double-digit pay hikes, it wasn’t sufficient to meet the union’s demands.
President Joe Biden voiced his support for the UAW’s demands, emphasizing that auto companies have seen record profits in recent years due to the exceptional skills and sacrifices of UAW workers. He stated, “Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers.” Biden encouraged both sides to remain at the negotiating table until an agreement is reached. He further added that he understands the union’s decision to strike, given the circumstances.
A statement released by GM said that the company was “disappointed” to hear of the strike. They said, “The UAW has informed GM that they are on strike at Wentzville Assembly in Missouri as of 11:59 p.m. We are disappointed by the UAW leadership’s actions, despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments.”
The statement continued, “We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers, and communities across the U.S.”
Stellantis and Ford also shared their disappointment in the union’s decision to strike, with Ford CEO Jim Farley claiming that the company could not afford the demands made by the union despite the company’s record-breaking profits.
The UAW’s strike is currently limited to three auto plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri. If the strike extends to all production facilities, it could see 150,000 UAW members walking off the job, impacting countless other workers at auto parts suppliers and related companies. The union is demanding a 40% pay increase over the next four-year contract, in line with the pay increases that automakers’ top executives have received in the past four years. Additionally, the UAW seeks the reinstatement of defined-benefit pensions for all workers and the elimination of the “two-tier” pay system that offers newer workers lower compensation.
The UAW’s concerns also extend to the growing electric vehicle and battery production industry in the U.S. The union fears that partnerships between U.S. automakers and non-union foreign companies on federally subsidized electric vehicle and battery projects might undermine union strength across the industry.
The UAW’s strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers highlights the ongoing tensions between labor and management in the auto industry. Paired with the ongoing WGA and SAG AFTRA strikes, labor unions across industries are beginning to demand higher pay and better compensation. With the support of President Biden, the UAW is pushing for fairer wages and benefits for its members, reflecting the broader challenges faced by workers in an evolving industry landscape. The outcome of these strikes will undoubtedly have significant implications for the future of labor relations in the U.S.