25,000 UAW workers are now on the picket line as the strike against the Big Three enters its third week.
On Friday, United Auto Workers union president Shawn Fain announced an additional 7,000 members would walk off the job at a Ford and General Motors plant at noon Eastern Time. The UAW strike now expands to Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, which builds the Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator SUVs, as well as GM’s Lansing, Delta Township, Michigan plant, which builds the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave.
Today’s announcement carved out Stellantis, so no additional workers will strike against that automaker. Moments before today’s announcement, Stellantis evidently called for “significant” changes to its contract proposal, said sources close to the matter.
“Despite our willingness to bargain, Ford and GM have refused to make meaningful progress”, Fain said Friday. That statement comes after Ford apparently achieved some progress last week, when the UAW did not stage additional walkouts at any of its facilities, but did expand the strike against GM and Stellantis to include 38 additional facilities nationwide. Despite a “flurry” of interest this Friday morning, Fain nonetheless announced the union would expand its strike against the two aforementioned Ford and GM plants.
“To be clear, negotiations haven’t broken down. We’re still talking with all three companies and I’m still very hopeful we can reach a deal. We’re fed up with corporate greed and we are fed up with corporate excess. We are fed up with breaking our bodies for companies that take more and more and give less and less,” Fain said during today’s announcement.
What is the UAW striking for?
After the union’s previous contract with Ford, GM and Stellantis expired on September 14, workers formed picket lines at multiple plants throughout the U.S. Since then, it’s escalated strike efforts against all three automakers, as the parties have failed to reach terms over the past three weeks.
Ford did reach a deal with Canadian autoworkers earlier this week, averting a strike there.
Among its demands, auto workers are demanding higher wages, including a 40% raise over a four-year period; reduced work weeks; better pension benefits and an elimination of a tiered wage system which can compensate new hires far less than veterans hired before 2007. So far, the automakers countered the UAW’s demands with a 20% pay increase.
President Biden joined the picket line earlier this week, telling UAW workers they “deserve the significant raise you need and other benefits.” Fain personally invited the President to visit the workers in Michigan, though the White House insists the Biden administration is not aiming to officially sway negotiations, instead saying it would “leave it to the UAW and the Big Three,” per WH press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
As of September 29, some 25,000 workers are on the picket lines – about 17% of the total 146,000-strong membership. The UAW is taking a targeted approach, calling their effort a “stand up strike”, rather than staging a mass walkout against all three automakers at once.