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Workers at Chicago Ford plant worry they may have to walk off the job amid strike

Chicago autoworkers rally amid strike against the big three
Chicago autoworkers rally amid strike against the big three 02:57

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The strike continues against the big three automakers, with no deal in sight between the United Auto Workers and GM, Chrysler parent company Stellantis, and Ford.

More plants are expected to walk off the job on Friday if the impasse continues – and the Ford Plant at 126th Street and Torrence Avenue in Chicago could be one of them.

As CBS 2's Sabrina Franza reported, hundreds of autoworkers gathered Thursday outside the UAW Local 551 headquarters, 13550 S. Torrence Ave., to protest.

"I just want a living wage," said UAW member Anneka Malone. "I want to be able to afford my mortgage; afford to take care of my children."

It was just a taste of what might happen should they be called to walk off the job a day later.

So far, the strike is limited to about 13,000 workers at three factories – one for each of the big three automakers:

"Hopefully, we're going to strike," said Nora Reeves. "I'm looking forward to it."

  • General Motors Wentzville Assembly Plant in Wentzville, Missouri near St. Louis (UAW Local 2250, Region 4)
  • Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex in Toledo, Ohio (Local 12, Region 2B)
  • Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan near Detroit (Local 900, Region 1A) 

Ford on Friday moved to lay off 600 non-striking workers temporarily at the Wayne, Michigan plant – only hours after other employees at the facility had walked off the job.

Workers worry the Chicago Ford plant might be next because of its size and importance.

Autoworkers rally in Chicago amid strike 02:21

The Chicago plant employs approximately 5,000 people. They build the Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility, and Lincoln Aviator vehicles.

The UAW's Fain on Sunday shot down an offer by Stellantis — which owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM, along with major foreign brands including Citroën, Peugeot and Maserati — to hike its worker' wages by 21% over four years. 

Ford and GM have also each offered a roughly 20% pay bump. The union is asking for a 36% hike over a four-year contract. 

The union also wants the Big Three automakers to eliminate their two-tier wage model, which results in many workers earning less than the average wage of $32 an hour; offer defined benefit pensions to all employees; limit the the use of temporary workers; offer a four-day workweek; and provide more job protections, including the right to strike over plant closings

"Our demands are just," Fain said on "Face the Nation" this past weekend. "We're asking for our fair share in this economy and the fruits of our labor." 

We spoke with an expert who explained how there does not seem to be an end in sight.

"We have seen negotiators continue to try to find a solution," said Paul Eisenstein, editor of Headlight.News, "but so far, it's been elusive, and that means we could see a real escalation of the strike - perhaps as soon as tomorrow."

Eisenstein explained the automakers' perspective.

"The industry is moving very quickly to an electrified product replacing today's internal combustion engine, and that's going to cost tens of billions of dollars to develop," he said. "The automakers are worried that if they give away too much, they simply won't be able to invest enough to stay competitive."

But Reeves said the workers' demands are not negotiable.

"Ford needs to understand that we want when we want, and we're not going to settle for any less," said Reeves.

Experts said the plan for Friday is up in the air. No one knows who will begin their targeted strike, or when.

"Will he hit individual plants - perhaps the Ford plant in Chicago?" Eisenstein said. "Or will he go all out and declare the entire UAW workforce should head to the picket lines – all almost 150,000 of them?"

We have reached out to all three automakers. Only Ford responded, saying they have been developing contingency plans if there are further work stoppages – including plans to shop parts to keep Ford vehicles on the road should this strike go on.

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