The president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) laid out the union’s strategy for striking the “Big Three” automakers, telling his members Wednesday they could carry out targeted walkouts to keep the companies off balance.
The UAW’s contracts with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, owner of the Dodge and Jeep brands, all expire at midnight Friday morning. The union said it would strike any company where it did not reach a satisfactory agreement on time.
Never before has the union struck at all three companies at the same time. As HuffPost reported earlier this week, it was possible that the union would decide to strike at certain facilities to disrupt production rather than causing a more costly simultaneous work stoppage across an entire company or across the three.
Shawn Fain, the president of the UAW, said Wednesday during an online town hall that the union would take a targeted approach. He called this strategy the “standing strike,” an homage to the famous “sit-down” strike that began in Flint, Michigan, in late 1936.
“This will create confusion for businesses. This will keep them guessing what might happen next.
– UAW President Shawn Fain
“It’s going to create confusion for businesses,” Fain said. “It’ll keep them guessing what might happen next.” And this will strengthen the power of our negotiators.
Fain said the union would inform its local affiliates two hours before the strike deadline on Thursday if they planned to strike. Those who have not been asked to strike should hold back.
“This strike requires us to be very disciplined,” Fain said.
Although such a strategy would inflict less pain on automakers, it would also inflict less pain on workers. The union has an $825 million strike fund, which would pay workers $500 a week, far less than they earn on the job. The fund could last about 11 weeks if all 150,000 workers under all three contracts were on the picket lines at the same time.
Through targeted strikes, many members were able to stay on the job while the union still managed to create production and distribution problems.
The union is trying to reach new four-year deals with the companies, but Fain said that despite progress, the two sides remain far apart on some key issues.
The union proposed wage increases of 40% over the life of the contract to compensate for inflation and previous concessions. Fain said Ford has increased by up to 20%, GM by up to 18% and Stellantis by up to 17.5%, but the union still considers those offers insufficient.
Fain also said companies have adopted a “two-tier” system that pays new workers less for doing the same work as veterans. It currently takes eight years to “progress” to the highest pay rate. Fain said all companies have offered to cut that time in half to four years, but the union said workers would have to reach the maximum rate in 90 days.
He added that other differences remained on the issues of profit sharing, temporary employment and factory closures.
Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement Wednesday that his company had made “increasingly generous” offers to the union and that he hoped both sides could avoid “a disastrous outcome.”
“If there is a strike, it is not because Ford did not make an attractive offer. We did it and that’s what we can control,” Farley said.
Fain said the union would still consider the possibility of striking anywhere depending on how negotiations progress, but he clarified that the union would start with more limited disruptions.
He said: “Your local will only strike if you are called to do so. »