If the United Auto Workers union and the Big Three U.S. automakers – General Motors, Ford and Stellantis – cannot agree on a new contract by Thursday night, the union says it is prepared to strike.
This is the first time the union has threatened a simultaneous strike against all three Detroit-based automakers in its 80-year history. The union is seeking a 36 percent pay increase from the automakers – who have so far only raised their counter-offers to about half of that – as well as pension for all workers, retiree health coverage and a 32-hour workweek.
“We do not yet have offers on the table that reflect the sacrifices and contributions our members have made to these companies,” United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said Wednesday. “To win we’re likely going to have to take action. We are preparing to strike these companies in a way they’ve never seen before.”
According to a plan revealed by Fain on Wednesday, the strike would first target specific, strategic auto plants, then gradually escalate to “keep [the companies] guessing” and bolster the union’s negotiating power. It could possibly see all 146,000 UAW members on strike if a settlement isn’t reached with the companies.
With less than 12 hours until the deadline, the automakers have yet to raise their offered pay raise above 20 percent, and have rejected the union’s other proposals. They contend that the money is needed elsewhere for developing electric vehicles while still producing internal combustion vehicles – and that an expensive union deal would force them to raise prices.
The U.S. auto industry which accounts for about 3 percent of gross domestic product. In such a critical industry, the effects of a major strike would be felt in car shortages and layoffs in adjacent industries – evoking memories of last year’s freight rail dispute, which saw federal intervention to prevent a multi-union strike, and criticism levied at President Joe Biden for signing off on it.
Biden has weighed in on the UAW-automaker negotiations, urging the two sides to reach an agreement to “avoid painful plant closings.”
In a Monday statement, Biden called on automakers to continue providing “good jobs that can support a family” through the market’s transition to electric vehicles, and to reinvest in the current workers and communities that support the industry.
“The UAW helped create the American middle class and as we move forward in this transition to new technologies, the UAW deserves a contract that sustains the middle class.”
Despite widespread support from labor organizations, Biden’s 2024 reelection bid has yet to be endorsed by the UAW.