UAW launches strike against Big 3 automakers

The two sides failed to reach an agreement before a deadline set by the union.

September 15, 2023, 4:50 PM

A union representing nearly 150,000 autoworkers launched a strike early Friday morning against the Big 3 U.S. automakers -- General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.

The United Auto Workers and the car manufacturers failed to reach a contract agreement before a deadline set by the union for Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET. Less than two hours before the deadline, UAW president Shawn Fain announced the plants where union members would strike if a tentative agreement wasn't reached in time. By midnight Friday, that amounted to approximately 12,700 union workers, including ones at GM in Wentzville, Missouri; Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio; and at Ford's Wayne, Michigan plant.

The union is doing what's called a "stand-up" strike, where not all union members strike at once.

Speaking at the White House on Friday, President Joe Biden offered support to striking UAW union members at the Big 3 U.S. automakers.

"Record corporate profits, which they have, should be shared by record contracts for the UAW," Biden said in brief remarks at the White House, adding "workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create for an enterprise."

"It's my hope that the parties can return to the negotiation table to forge a win-win agreement," Biden added.

On Friday, Ford laid off 600 workers who assemble cars at a plant in Michigan, the company told ABC News in a statement. Workers in the paint department at a nearby plant are out on strike, leaving the assembly workers without adequate parts, since the parts require paint before they can be put together into cars, the company said.

"Our production system is highly interconnected, which means the UAW’s targeted strike strategy will have knock-on effects for facilities that are not directly targeted for a work stoppage," Ford said.

Shortly after the strike was announced on Friday morning, Fain sent a message to UAW's email list.

"A few minutes ago, thousands of UAW members at Ford, GM, and Stellantis walked out, marking the beginning of the Stand Up Strike," his note read.

"This fight is our generation's defining moment. Not just at the Big Three, but across the entire working class," he continued, adding, "We will stand up for ourselves. We will stand up for our families. We will stand up for our communities."

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain speaks at a rally with union members after marching in the Detroit Labor Day Parade on September 4, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

As the strike began, a Stellantis spokesperson released a statement expressing the company's disappointment in not reaching an agreement.

"We are extremely disappointed by the UAW leadership's refusal to engage in a responsible manner to reach a fair agreement in the best interest of our employees, their families and our customers. We immediately put the Company in contingency mode and will take all the appropriate structural decisions to protect our North American operations and the Company.

Earlier in the day on Thursday, the UAW and the companies remained far apart on key demands, such as wage increases and the length of the workweek.

The union demanded a 46% pay increase combined over the four-year duration of a new contract, as well as a 32-hour workweek at 40-hour pay.

General Motors and Ford put forward proposals on Thursday that offer workers a 20% pay over the life of the agreement; the latest offer from Stellantis includes a total 17.5% pay increase. The offers from all three of the companies preserved a 40-hour workweek.

In a statement Thursday night as the strike loomed, the Ford Motor Company said that the UAW's counterproposal, which they received Thursday evening, "showed little movement from the union's initial demands submitted Aug. 3."

"The union made clear that unless we agreed to its unsustainable terms, it plans a work stoppage at 11:59 p.m. eastern," the company said in the statement. "Ford has bargained in good faith in an effort to avoid a strike, which could have wide-ranging consequences for our business and the economy."

The automaker said it "remains absolutely committed to reaching an agreement that rewards" employees "and protects Ford's ability to invest in the future" during a time of transformation.

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