Some 12,700 UAW members — about 8 percent of the union’s auto workers — are on strike at a Stellantis plant in Toledo, a GM plant in Wentzville, Mo., and the UAW plant. Ford assembly in Wayne, Michigan.
The UAW has ordered the majority of its members to continue working for the time being. However, late Friday, Ford and General Motors announced they would temporarily lay off 2,600 non-striking workers because their facilities rely on work from striking factories.
The union and companies remain far apart on wages and benefits during their weeks-long contract negotiations, with the union demanding a 36 percent wage increase over four years. On Saturday, Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep and Chrysler, announced it was offering a 21% cumulative pay increase over the course of a new contract., a proposal he made Thursday, before the start of the strike. Ford and GM have proposed 20 percent increases.
Why UAW Workers Say They’re on Strike
The UAW continues to keep its strike plans secret. When asked Friday night if the UAW might strike at more plants, UAW President Shawn Fain said it depends on the outcome of negotiations.
“As things move forward or don’t move forward, we’ll make decisions as a board or as a union, and we’ll take the next step,” Fain said after a rally in Detroit Friday night . “It could be in a day.” It could be in a week. It just depends on how things develop.
In a statement On Saturday morning, Fain said the union would ensure laid-off workers “are not deprived of income.”
He did not provide further details, but 600 laid-off workers at a Ford stamping plant in Wayne were told by their local UAW leaders that they could sign up for weekly strike pay. of $500 that the union pays to strikers, according to Mike Kanowski. , 67, union representative from his factory and Ford automobile worker for 49 years.
Asked if he was concerned about the length of the temporary layoffs, Kanowski said, “No, we all agree. We have been deceived over the last few contracts.
Fain accused companies of laying off workers to “force our members to settle for less.”
GM and Ford said the layoffs were a direct result of the strike, which is starving non-striking factories of materials. The laid-off workers will not be eligible for the usual unemployment benefits that companies pay when one of their factories idles, the two companies said. GM said it was because they were working under an expired contract.
“We have said repeatedly that no one wins in a strike and that the effects extend far beyond our employees in the factory and negatively impact our customers, our suppliers and the communities in which we operate ” GM said in a statement Friday.
This is the first time the union has launched a strike against all three companies at the same time. The last national auto strike was against GM in 2019.
The Auto Workers Strikes That Changed America
The impressive Stellantis factory in Toledo makes Jeep Wranglers and Gladiators. GM’s Wentzville plant makes Chevrolet Colorado trucks and vans as well as GMC Canyon trucks and Savana vans. Ford’s Michigan assembly plant in Wayne makes Ranger trucks and Bronco SUVs.
Stellantis said Saturday that its latest offer included a proposal to save jobs at a large plant in Belvidere, Illinois, that it closed this year, laying off 1,200 workers. But the offer was only on the table until the strike began, Mark Stewart, Stellantis’ chief operating officer, told reporters on a call, the Detroit News and others reported.
In comments later Saturday, Fain said it showed Stellantis was using Belvidere workers as “bargaining chips.”
The UAW president called corporate wage offers insufficient after years of high inflation and big corporate profits. He also highlights the significant pay increases that auto CEOs received during the just-expired auto workers contract signed in 2019.
Remuneration of GM CEO Mary Barra, including bonuses and stock awards, grew 34% between 2019 and 2022, reaching $29 million last year. Ford’s CEO compensation increased 21 percent during that period, reaching $21 million last year. Stellantis, headquartered in the Netherlands and resulting from the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler and French Peugeot, did not exist at the start of the contract. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares earned about $25 million last year, including long-term incentives.
Full-time UAW workers earn between $18 and $32 an hour, plus profit-sharing and other bonuses. Over the four years of the just-expired contract, full-time employees were “eligible” for a total of $44,700 in profit sharing, Stellantis said Saturday. Ford says its average full-time employee received $75,000 in profit sharing over the past 10 years.
Temporary workers earn lower wages, between $16 and $19 an hour, and are not eligible for profit sharing or other bonuses. And they often remain stuck in temporary status for years. The companies have proposed raising starting wages to $20 an hour. Ford proposed converting all existing temps to full-time status within 90 days.
Automakers say they are offering better pay raises and benefits than they have in decades. Ford considers its offering the best in 80 years. Barra told CBS News on Friday that the company’s offer is “a record from a gross salary perspective in our 115-year history.”
But she said GM can’t meet all of the union’s demands and still remain profitable. These demands include a 32-hour work week, defined benefit pensions for all workers instead of 401(k) accounts, and company-funded health care in retirement.
Meanwhile, outside the Bronco and Wrangler factory Saturday afternoon, strikers were in good spirits, buoyed by an outpouring of support. Drivers on the main thoroughfare, Michigan Avenue, honked their car horns. Relatives, friends, local businesses and even strangers dropped off pizza, water, fried chicken and cookies. Someone set up a barbecue.
Justin Bowden, 39, a Ford worker and father of four from Detroit, said he signed on to work at the Michigan plant less than a year ago because he “had I felt like it was a good job, seeing my father work at Chrysler when I was young. His father was able to purchase his own house and several rental properties.
“Back then it was better,” concluded Bowden, a renter who makes $18 an hour and works a second job stocking shelves at Dollar Tree. “At the moment, things are not going very well. You have to have two jobs.
Gurley reported from Detroit.
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