The United Auto Workers is expanding its historic strike against Detroit's Big Three automakers to include General Motors and Stellantis parts distribution centers across 20 U.S. states.
UAW President Shawn Fain said during a Facebook Live address on Friday that workers at 38 GM and Stellantis facilities will walk off the job at noon local time. GM and Stellantis "are going to need some serious pushing" to get closer to an agreement, said the union leader, who wore a black-and-white camouflage-printed union shirt.
"We're not going to wait around forever for a fair contract," Fain said. "The companies know how to make this right."
Notably, the labor group is not targeting Ford for additional strikes. The union is making progress with Ford on wage, job security and other issues, according to Fain, who said the company "is serious about reaching a deal."
Specifically, Ford has agreed to dismantle the two-tiered wage system at its Components and Sterling axel assembly plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Fain said. The automaker has also agreed to reinstate cost-of-living adjustments — which were eliminated in 2009 — and the right to strike over plant closures. Other concessions Ford made include beefed-up profit-sharing payments that will also be offered to temporary workers who have been on the job for 90 days.
"Ford is working diligently with the UAW to reach a deal that rewards our workforce and enables Ford to invest in a vibrant and growing future," the company said in a statement. "Although we are making progress in some areas, we still have significant gaps to close on the key economic issues."
Roughly 5,600 Big Three workers will join the nearly 13,000 who are already on strike. In an unusually public show of support by a sitting president for striking workers, President Biden will go to Michigan on Tuesday and participate in the protest, the White House announced Friday afternoon.
"The President will join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create," the White House said.
The UAW's move to escalate the work stoppage highlights how far the side remain apart on core union demands, which include a 36% pay increase across a four-year contract, annual cost-of-living adjustments, pension benefits for all employees, greater job security and a.
GM and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep, have rejected the union's proposals for job security, reduced-use of temporary workers and profit-sharing, which is why the union's expanded strike targets their facilities, Fain said. Those plants will remain on strike until GM and Stellantis submit more substantive offers, he said.
What the automakers say
GM said in a statement Friday that the strike targeting 18 of its facilities is unnecessary and that it adversely impacts "more than 3,000 team members plus their families and communities."
"We have now presented five separate economic proposals that are historic, addressing areas that our team members have said matters most: wage increases and job security while allowing GM to succeed and thrive into the future," the carmaker said in a statement. "We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible."
Stellantis slammed the UAW's decision to expand the strike, saying it has made a competitive offer to the UAW, including a more than 20% pay hike.
"Following yesterday's publication of comments made by the UAW's Communications Director and the subsequent strike announcement, we question whether the union's leadership has ever had an interest in reaching an agreement in a timely manner," the automaker said. "They seem more concerned about pursuing their own political agendas than negotiating in the best interests of our employees and the sustainability of our U.S. operations given the market's fierce competition."
The automakers argue they're facing pressure to keep costs low in order to compete with Tesla and foreign car makers, while also investing heavily to speed the transition to electric vehicles.
"If we don't continue to invest, we will lose ground — quickly," GM President Mark Reuss wrote Wednesday in an op-ed published in the Detroit Free Press. "Our competitors across the country and around the world, most of whom are non-union, will waste no time seizing the opportunity we would be handing them."
What does the UAW want?
The UAW is pushing automakers to eliminate the two-tiered wage system present at all three companies. Higher-tier workers — anyone who joined the company before 2007 — make roughly $33 an hour. Anyone who joined after that year is classified as lower tier, and their pay starts at around $17 an hour. Lower-tier employees also don't receive defined benefit pensions, and their health benefits are less generous.
Fain said employees at parts distribution centers are disproportionately impacted by the pay structure. "At Stellantis and GM... workers at parts distribution centers are permanently stuck on a lower wage scale," he said. "For workers hired after 2015, top pay maxes out at just $25 an hour, and it takes eight years to get there."
Along with a wage hike and annual cost-of-living hikes, the UAW wants the Big Three to limit their use of temporary workers; strengthen job protections, including the right to strike over plant closings; and offer more paid time off. More broadly, the union argues that the Big Three reaped hefty profits as car prices jumped during the pandemic, while workers failed to enjoy the same benefits.
Why target the parts facilities?
Staging walkouts at the GM and Stellantis parts distribution centers is aimed at making it harder for the companies to repair cars at their dealerships, Fain said.
"In selecting the parts distribution centers, the UAW creates a scenario where manufacturing disruptions will be more difficult to predict or manage, and could be widespread," Joe Langley, associate director of North American production forecasting at S&P Global Mobility, said in an email. "A vehicle has thousands of parts, and if one is missing it cannot be completed."
Lynne Vincent, a business management professor at Syracuse University, said the UAW's "selective striking" strategy is aimed at maximizing the worker' leverage while keeping the automakers off balance.
"It gives them the power of surprise so the Big Three cannot fully strategize and create their own counter tactic," said Vincent, an expert on the psychological impacts of strikes.
The UAW's so-called stand-up strike — a rhetorical nod to the "sit-down" strike by GM workers in Flint, Michigan, in the 1930s —when Ford, GM and Stellantis workers in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio walked off the job after negotiations between the automakers and the UAW failed to yield .
The automakers responded by announcing temporary layoffs at some factories,which had temporarily laid off 600 non-striking workers at its assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, on September 15, only hours after employees at the facility had walked off the job.
it was temporarily laying off 68 workers at a plant outside Toledo because of the ongoing strike, with more layoffs expected at its transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana. GM said it will lay off 2,000 workers at its plant in Kansas City, Kansas, because there's no work for them since they depend on parts from the Wentzville facility.
Workers from those plants, as well as those walking off from the 38 distribution sites added Friday, will be paid through the UAW's $825 million strike fund.
Here are the GM and Stellantis parts distribution facilities where workers are set to strike.
- Pontiac Redistribution (Pontiac, Michigan)
- Willow Run Redistribution (Belleville, Michigan)
- Ypsilanti Processing Center (Ypsilanti, Michigan)
- Davidson Road Processing Center (Burton, Michigan)
- Flint Processing Center (Swartz Creek, Michigan)
- Lansing Redistribution (Lansing, Michigan)
- Cincinnati Parts Distribution (Westchester, Ohio)
- Denver Parts Distribution (Aurora, Colorado)
- Hudson Parts Distribution (Hudson, Wisconsin)
- Chicago Parts Distribution (Bolingbrook, Illinois)
- Reno Parts Distribution Center (Reno, Nevada)
- Rancho Cucamonga Parts Distribution (Rancho Cucamonga, California)
- Fort Worth Parts Distribution (Roanoke, Texas)
- Martinsburg Parts Distribution (Martinsburg, West Virginia)
- Jackson Parts Distribution (Brandon, Mississippi)
- Charlotte Parts Distribution (Charlotte, North Carolina)
- Memphis AC Delco Parts Distribution (Memphis, Tennessee)
- Philadelphia Parts Distribution (Langhorne, Pennsylvania)
- Marysville (Marysville, Michigan)
- Centerline Packaging (Center Line, Michigan)
- Centerline Warehouse (Center Line, Michigan)
- Sherwood (Warren, Michigan)
- Warren Parts (Warren, Michigan)
- Quality Engineering Center (Auburn Hills, Michigan)
- Romulus (Romulus, Michigan)
- Cleveland (Streetsboro, Ohio)
- Milwaukee (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
- Minneapolis (Plymouth, Minnesota)
- Denver (Commerce City, Colorado)
- Chicago (Naperville, Illinois)
- Los Angeles (Ontario, California)
- Portland (Beaverton, Oregon)
- Atlanta (Morrow, Georgia)
- Winchester (Winchester, Virginia)
- Orlando (Orlando, Florida)
- Dallas (Carrollton, Texas)
- New York (Tappan, New York)
- Boston (Mansfield, Massachusetts)
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