The United Auto Workers union has expanded its strike against major automakers, walking out of 38 parts distribution centers operated by General Motors and Stellantis, owner of Jeep and Ram, in 20 states, including Illinois.
UAW President Shawn Fain said in an online presentation to union members that GM and Stellantis, Fiat Chrysler’s successor, have rejected the union’s cost-of-living proposals, profit sharing and job security, and “are going to need serious measures”. push. »
GM said it presented five “historic” offers covering wages and job security.
“Today’s escalation of strikes by the UAW’s top leadership is unnecessary,” the company said in a statement. “UAW leaders are manipulating the bargaining process for their own personal interests. »
Stellantis said it made “a very competitive offer” Thursday that would pay all current full-time hourly employees between $80,000 and $96,000 over four years and seven months and allow for “workforce stability” for this period. The company said the UAW has not responded.
In Illinois, assembly plants involved in the strike include a GM parts distribution plant in Bolingbrook and a Stellantis plant in Naperville.
According to Fain, workers at Ford assembly centers are not being asked to strike because the automaker has shown it is “serious about reaching an agreement” following major contract negotiations.
“At GM and Stellantis, it’s a different story,” Fain said.
The union highlights the huge profits recently made by companies and demands wage increases of 36% over four years. The companies offered a little more than half that amount. The UAW has other demands, including a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay and the restoration of traditional pension plans for new workers.
The companies say they cannot afford to meet the union’s demands because they must invest their profits in a costly transition from gasoline cars to electric vehicles.
The UAW’s contract with automakers expired at midnight Sept. 14, and workers walked out of a Ford assembly plant near Detroit, a GM plant in Wentzville, Mo., and a Stellantis-run Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio.
Fain said earlier this week that he would call on workers at more factories to strike unless significant progress is made in contract negotiations with automakers. Negotiations continued Thursday, although neither side reported progress, and they remained sharply divergent on wage increases.
So far, the strike involves fewer than 13,000 of the union’s 146,000 members. Companies laid off a few thousand more, saying some factories were short of parts because of the strike.
However, the impact is not yet being felt on the country’s car parks: it will probably take a few weeks before the strike causes a significant shortage of new vehicles, according to analysts. Prices could rise even sooner, however, if the prospect of a prolonged strike triggers panic buying.
The union is demanding wage increases of 36% over four years, an end to lower pay scales for new workers and, more daringly, a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay. Automakers say they cannot afford to accede to the union’s demands despite huge profits because they must invest in the transition to electric vehicles.
Friday’s decision is crucial for Fain, who won a close election in March to unseat the former UAW president. He followed an unusual strategy of negotiating with Detroit’s Big Three automakers simultaneously.
Workers went on strike a week ago at three assembly plants: a Ford plant near Detroit, a GM plant outside St. Louis and a Jeep plant owned by Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio.
By contrast, Unifor, which represents Canadian auto workers, took a more traditional approach: It chose a target company, Ford, last month and announced a tentative agreement this week, just hours before the deadline. strike limit. If the deal is ratified, Unifor expects GM and Stellantis to agree to similar contracts for Canadian workers.
Tensions were high in Detroit ahead of Fain’s planned announcement.
The Detroit News reported Thursday that a Fain spokesperson wrote in a private group chat on X, formerly Twitter, that union negotiators aimed to inflict “recurring reputational damage and chaos operational” to car manufacturers, and “if we can keep them injured for months they don’t know what to do.
Ford and GM took these messages as a sign of bad faith on the part of the UAW.
“It is now clear that the UAW leadership always intended to cause disruption for months, regardless of the harm it causes to its members and their communities,” GM said in a statement.
Ford spokesman Mark Truby called the messages “disappointing to say the least, given what’s at stake for our employees, businesses and this region.”
UAW spokesman Jonah Furman did not confirm the writing of the messages, which were linked to the same photo as his X account, and called them “private messages” that “you do not should not have received,” the newspaper reported.