The United Auto Workers strike is expected to spread to more than 25,000 workers as the massive strike against the ‘Big Three’ automakers in Detroit enters its third week.
Striking workers will add a Ford plant in Chicago and a General Motors plant in Michigan to the action, with further strikes already underway, also affecting Stellantis.
UAW President Shawn Fain announced the escalation of the strikes on Friday, two days after former President Donald Trump chose to speak to protesters instead of attending the second Republican presidential debate.
The day before, President Biden also joined the picket line — albeit for just 12 minutes — as more than 18,000 factory workers gained momentum in their demands for higher wages.
Fain called on 7,000 workers to join the fight, pointing to a Ford plant in Chicago and a GM plant in Lancing Township, Michigan, as targets. In his speech on Friday, he cited the visits of the political heavyweights, stressing that “America has our backs.”
Workers have been on strike at three factories: a Stellantis Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio; a Ford plant in Detroit that produces Bronco SUVs and Rangers; and a GM plant in Missouri. The crippling factory shutdowns were also amplified by picket lines at 38 parts distribution centers in 20 states.
UAW President Shawn Fain Declared ‘America Has Our Backs’ As He Announced Automaker Strikes Will Expand
President Biden addresses striking auto workers; he spent 12 minutes on the picket line
The strike began on September 15, when workers at one General Motors, Ford and Stellantis plant went on strike. The UAW has not attacked Ford’s distribution facilities, citing progress in negotiations.
Before Fain announced that the picket line was growing, focusing on “corporate greed,” talks between the parties had been promising.
He said they were working “day and night” on a new contract, but said his “willingness to negotiate” meant there was “no meaningful” movement and the strike spread to the two other companies.
Fain blasted the automakers’ negotiators for hoarding record profits, saying the companies were “doing incredibly well, so we deserve to do incredibly well too.”
Negotiations over pay increases have been at a standstill for weeks, with the union pushing for wages that could be up to 40 percent higher over four years, along with cost-of-living adjustments and additional paid leave.
The car manufacturers made a counter offer of about a 20 percent increase with additional benefits. While they insist such a deal is historic, striking bosses argue it is well below what they can afford given near-record profits in recent years.
However, he stressed that talks with automakers’ executives and the White House remain “open” despite the breakdown that led Fain to become visibly irate during his Friday news conference.
UAW workers picket outside Ford’s Wayne Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan on September 26
Donald Trump chose to speak to protesters instead of attending the second Republican presidential debate
Heading into Friday, about 18,300 UAW members of the Detroit Three were on strike, or about 12% of the 146,000 union members who work at the automakers. Strikers receive $500 a week from the UAW strike fund.
After an initial strike on September 15, the union closed one assembly plant at each of the “Detroit Three,” and 38 parts distribution centers at GM and Stellantis.
After seven days, the union expanded its strikes against GM and Stellantis on September 22, but kept the strike at Ford limited to a single plant because of progress in those talks. The latest expansion does not include Stallantis.
The union and companies remain far apart on key economic issues. Fain remains committed to demanding 40% pay increases over a four-year contract, a position President Joe Biden supported on Tuesday during a visit to Detroit.
The companies have responded with offers of around 20%.
The UAW is also pushing automakers to eliminate the two-tiered wage system, which allows new hires to earn far less than veterans.
Before another 7,000 people were called to strike, the 18,000 people on strike represented about 12 percent of the UAW’s 146,000 members.
The UAW strike is the first in its 88-year history.