As the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the Detroit automakers enters its fourth week, UAW President Shawn Fain has announced a shift in strategy. The UAW, known for adding manufacturing facilities to its list of strike targets on Fridays, has decided to break away from this predictable pattern. Fain stated that the automakers had been exploiting this schedule, causing the union to alter its approach.
“We will be calling out plants when we need to, where we need to, with little notice,” Fain declared. “We’re not sticking to one pattern or one system of giving these companies an extra hour or an extra day. They know what needs to happen, and they know how to get it done.”
This change in strategy comes after the strikes commenced on September 15, starting with one assembly plant from each of the Detroit automakers: General Motors (GM), Stellantis, and Ford. Subsequently, the UAW added 38 parts warehouses at GM and Stellantis and one assembly factory each from Ford and GM. In a surprising move, the UAW escalated the strikes by adding a significant Ford truck and SUV plant in Kentucky.
Currently, around 33,700 workers are participating in the strike. While the Detroit automakers may have the financial reserves to endure the strike’s impact, analysts suggest that the ongoing strikes could squeeze smaller parts supply companies.
A notable development in the strike negotiations is the contrasting approach taken by Ford. Kumar Galhotra, President of Ford Blue (Ford’s internal combustion engine division), stated that Ford had reached its limit regarding the financial resources it could allocate to reach a deal with the UAW. Ford had presented an offer, including a 23% pay raise over four years and other benefit increases, and expressed reluctance to increase their financial commitment further.
Fain criticized Ford’s stance, stating that the company had not increased its offer despite the escalation in strike actions. He mentioned that Ford seemed to be trying to game the system by waiting until Fridays to make better offers, which prompted the UAW to change the rules.
Despite these challenges, progress has been reported in the talks. GM agreed to include joint-venture electric vehicle battery factories in the national master contract, which is expected to ensure the unionization of these plants. Battery plant unionization is a major point of contention in the negotiations, as the UAW seeks to secure jobs and top wages for workers affected by the industry’s transition to electric vehicles.
Fain assured UAW members that, despite the changing tactics, they are making headway in their pursuit of significant wage increases, the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments, the establishment of defined benefit pension plans for all workers, the elimination of different pay scale tiers across the nation, and job security assurances, including promises to build new vehicles in America.