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Workers at Ford Chicago Assembly Plant join UAW strike

4,600 UAW members at Ford's Chicago assembly plant join strike
4,600 UAW members at Ford's Chicago assembly plant join strike 02:04

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Approximately 4,600 Ford workers at the Chicago Assembly Plant on the Southeast Side joined the United Auto Workers on strike against Detroit's Big Three carmakers on Friday, expanding a strike that has already shuttered assembly plants, parts distribution centers and other facilities across more than 20 states.

UAW President Shawn Fain said the Ford plant in Chicago, and the General Motors Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan were joining the strike on Friday, adding about 7,000 more workers to the strike against Ford, GM, and Stellantis (the parent company of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, along with a number of foreign brands). 

The Ford factory in Chicago makes Ford Explorers and Explorer Police Interceptors, as well as the Lincoln Aviator SUV. The GM factory in Lansing makes the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave and other SUVs. A metal parts stamping plant in Lansing will remain open while the assembly plant is on strike.

Workers at Ford Chicago Assembly Plant join UAW strike 02:21

"Sadly, despite our willingness to bargain, Ford and GM have refused to make meaningful progress at the table," Fain said.  

The Chicago and Lansing plants employ more than 7,000 union auto workers combined, according to Fain, bringing the total number of auto workers on strike to 25,000, or 17% of the UAW's roughly 146,000 members.

"We're out here to try to get a decent contract because we work hard," said Craig Taylor, a Ford worker at the Chicago plant.

Daniel Morales, another Chicago Ford worker, said, "We are out here fighting for a better tomorrow. Fighting for a better chance to finally be able to live within these hard times. The economy has gone up but our pay hasn't."

The UAW spared additional strikes at Stellantis. Fain said Stellantis has made progress on negotiations, including in cost-of-living adjustments and giving workers the right to strike. 

"We are excited about this momentum at Stellantis and hope it continues," Fain said.

However, GM vice president for manufacturing Gerald Johnson accused the union of calling more strikes "just for the headlines, not real progress."

In a note to workers, Johnson said the company has not yet received a counteroffer from the UAW to an economic proposal it made on Sept. 21.

"We continue to stand ready and willing to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that benefits you and doesn't let the non-union manufacturers win," Johnson wrote, calling the counteroffer a record proposal with historic wage increases and job security.

Thousands of workers at Chicago Ford assembly plant join UAW strike 02:21

Ford President and CEO Jim Farley also claimed the UAW already has been offered a record contract.

"It is grossly irresponsible to escalate these strikes and hurt thousands of families," Farley said.

Stellantis said in a statement it's committed to "working through these issues in an expeditious manner to reach a fair and responsible agreement that gets everyone back to work as soon as possible."  

The UAW launched its "stand-up strike" — a rhetorical nod to the "sit-down" strike by GM workers in Flint, Michigan, in the 1930s — on September 15 when nearly 13,000 autoworkers halted work at Big Three assembly plants Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. A week later, another 5,600 workers at 38 GM and Stellantis-owned parts distribution centers in 20 states walked off the job, including two sites in Illinois — a GM facility in Bolingbrook and a Stellantis facility in Naperville.

"We knew going into this, the fight wasn't going to be quick," Fain said. "I'm still very hopeful that we can reach a deal that reflects the incredible sacrifices and contributions that our members have made over the last decade."   

Chicago auto workers join UAW strike 02:12


President Biden joined UAW strikers this week in Michigan on the picket line — a historically unprecedented move for a sitting U.S. president — saying they saved the auto industry following the 2008 financial crisis and urging them to "stick with it."

What the UAW wants

The UAW's demands include a 36% pay increase across a four-year contract, annual cost-of-living adjustments, pension benefits for all employees, greater job security, restrictions on the use of temporary workers and a four-day work week. Along with a wage hike, the union also wants the automakers to eliminate a two-tiered wage system adopted at the companies after the 2008 financial crisis. 

For their part, the automakers say they have made reasonable counteroffers, while arguing that the UAW's wage and other demands would make it hard to compete with other car manufacturers. 

Automakers have long said that they're willing to give raises to workers, but fear that too rich of a contract will drive up the prices of their vehicles, making them higher than those made at nonunion U.S. plants run by foreign automakers, largely in the south. The union counters that labor costs are only 4% to 5% of the cost of a vehicle, and the companies are making billions in profits and can afford big raises.  

Union leaders counter that the Big Three reaped hefty profits as car prices jumped during the pandemic, while workers failed to enjoy the same benefits. 

Biden makes history on UAW picket line 05:35

The UAW striking in weekly waves allows the union to "inflict significant disruption while minimizing the number of workers not receiving paychecks," Benjamin Salisbury, an analyst at Height Capital Markets, said in a report.

Striking workers are receiving pay through an $825 million fund set up by the UAW.

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