The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has reportedly made progress in contract negotiations with the “Big Three” automakers of Michigan, though there is still some progress to be made, according to the organization’s president.
UAW strikes entered their fourth week on Friday, and the union held off on escalating worker walkouts for a third week in a row as new and unexpected concessions were made by General Motors (GM) this week, according to a report from Reuters. Crucially, the union expects that the concessions could put pressure on Ford and Stellantis to follow suit after GM allowed workers at its future battery plants to be covered by new contracts with the union.
“Our strike is working, but we’re not there yet,” UAW President Shawn Fain said during a live stream update.
Friday was the first deadline in two weeks in which the UAW didn’t order additional workers to walk out of facilities operated by the automakers after the union threatened to target a GM plant in Arlington, Texas that builds the Cadillac Escalade. Instead, Fain said that GM unexpectedly approved contracts covering three joint-venture battery plants being built with LG Energy Solutions.
“GM has agreed to lay the foundation for a just transition [to EVs],” Fain added.
GM did not confirm the statements, saying instead that negotiations were ongoing. LG declined to comment on the situation.
“We will continue to work towards finding solutions to address outstanding issues,” GM said in a company statement.
This is the first time in history that the UAW has lodged strikes against all three automakers simultaneously, and contracts have remained at a standstill, with battery plants being a key prospect of the talks. Ford CEO Jim Farley recently said the UAW was holding the automaker “hostage” with battery plants that didn’t yet exist, and the company even ceased construction on one new electric vehicle (EV) battery facility.
“This defines the transition to EVs,” said Harley Shaiken, a UC Berkeley labor professor. “Clearly, GM’s concession on the master agreement will positively be matched by Ford and Stellantis.”
Electrification has also been a focal point of the discussions, as many expect the transition to result in fewer available jobs than those currently utilized for internal combustion engine (ICE) production. Along with demanding a 40-percent wage increase over a four-year period (and several other demands), the UAW has highlighted the need for added job security amidst the transition.
Despite the progress, Ford said on Friday that it would be laying off an additional 495 employees at facilities in Ohio and Michigan, citing the impacts of the UAW’s strikes, according to a report from Automotive News. The layoffs add to around 7,900 Ford workers who are striking, along with another 1,800 who have lost their jobs because of a lack of available work due to ripple effects from the strikes.
On Tuesday, Ford increased its contract offers from just 20 percent in previous weeks to what it called an “unprecedented” set of pay raises amounting to a roughly 26 percent wage increase. With the addition of other parts of the contract, namely the cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), the automaker’s wage increases could offer workers close to a 30-percent wage increase, according to people familiar with the contract proposal.
The UAW held a rally in Chicago on Saturday, which you can watch via YouTube below. You can also learn more about recent concessions at the UAW website here.