On Friday, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union entered its 15th day on strike, accompanied by additional walkouts of General Motors (GM) Ford plants. Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Dodge Ram and Jeep, managed to avoid heightened strikes after reportedly making some progress on contract negotiations.
After the UAW said last week that it would escalate strikes if progress wasn’t made on new contracts, the union officially ordered workers to walk off the job at two assembly plants on Friday: one run by Ford in Chicago, Illinois and another run by Stellantis in Lansing, Michigan, Reuters reports. Stellantis avoided the escalated strikes after UAW President Shawn Fain said the automaker made some last-minute concessions.
The news brings the total number of striking workers up to about 25,000, with the historic strike now in its third week. This is the first time in history that auto strikes have targeted all three of the automakers at once, with the UAW strategically striking at key facilities to disrupt supply chains and force negotiation.
The additional walkouts also mark the second Friday on which additional UAW workers vacated their work sites, with employees walking out of 38 more GM and Stellantis facilities on September 22.
Following the updated walkouts on Friday night, Ford CEO Jim Farley and GM CEO Mary Barra laid into the UAW.
“It’s clear that there is no real intent to get to an agreement,” Barra said.
Yahoo Finance reported on Friday that Farley said the UAW was holding an agreement “hostage” over battery plants, adding that the union’s demands “could have a devastating impact on our business.”
Farley recently also stated that the union’s demands would bankrupt Ford if enacted. Tesla CEO Elon Musk reiterated a similar point this week, saying a 32-hour work week combined with a 40-percent wage hike would be a “sure way” to make the three automakers go bankrupt.
“I need to be clear about one thing, because the UAW is scaring our workers by repeating something that is factually not true, none of our workers today are going to lose their jobs due to our battery plants during this contract period or even beyond this contract,” Farley said. “In fact, for the foreseeable future, we will have to hire more workers as some workers retire in order to keep up with the demand of our incredible new vehicles.”
The union responded that neither Farley nor Barra showed up to bargaining this week.
“We want to get agreements,” Fain said on Friday outside the Lansing GM plant. “We have been there every day 24/7 since the middle of July, we have been there every day. It’s ironic that some of these CEOs make these statements and literally the CEO of Ford has been in probably three meetings over the course of these nine or 10 weeks.”
Ford Supply Chain Officer Liz Door said that if strikes continued, we could see as many as 300,000 to 500,000 employees laid off across the auto industry, especially in auto supply positions. Farley said that the 125,000 jobs held by Ford suppliers would also be put “at risk” without a deal.
In a separate report, Reuters also noted that the UAW dropped charges previously filed against GM and Stellantis with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which alleged unfair labor practices at the two companies and claimed that the companies weren’t bargaining in good faith.
The UAW represents about 150,000 workers at the three auto companies, and the current strikes make up about 17 percent of the total figure. The UAW is demanding the following in updated union contracts:
- 40-percent wage hikes over four years
- 32-hour work weeks
- Eliminating tiered wage systems requiring several years to reach top wages
- Restoring traditional pension plans
- Restoring wage cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA)
- Improved vacation, retirement and family leave
The automakers have offered wage increases of about 20 percent in contracts over the four years, though negotiations reportedly remain far apart.
Some expect the situation to positively affect non-unionized electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla, though others point out that the strikes are likely to make wages — and subsequently car prices — increase alongside those of the three legacy automakers. Among the topics regularly discussed during negotiations is the fact that EVs have fewer parts than gas cars and thus will require fewer workers in the future.