Despite offers on the table, from both the Detroit Big Three (GM, Ford, and Stellantis) and a counter-offer from the United Auto Workers (UAW), midnight came and went on September 15, 2023 without a collective bargain. As a result, the UAW is officially on strike, staging a series of walkouts that will effect all three manufacturers. The strike will effectively halt production of the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, among other models according to Reuters. The strikes affect plants in three different states, with almost 13,000 workers walking out. The strike could have an impact on fragile supply chains and weaken an already shaky economy struggling with inflation.
In a statement released by Ford, the manufacturer was clear that they think the union’s demands are unreasonable. “The union made clear that unless we agreed to its unsustainable terms, it plans a work stoppage at 11:59 p.m. eastern. Ford has bargained in good faith in an effort to avoid a strike, which could have wide-ranging consequences for our business and the economy. It also impacts the very 57,000 UAW-Ford workers we are trying to reward with this contract. Our hourly employees would take home nearly 60% less on average with UAW strike pay than they would from working. And without vehicles in production, the profit-sharing checks that UAW workers could expect to receive early next year will also be decimated by a significant strike.”
GM and Stellantis have expressed similar disappointment with the lack of movement from the UAW. General Motors CEO Mary Barra spoke to CNN, “I think we have an offer that resonates with our people,” Barra told CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich, saying that the offer includes pay raises up to 21%, job security and healthcare. “Our team is ready to be at the table… and we need UAW leadership to get back to the table so we can get these issues resolved and get people back to work.”
Part of the issue for the UAW members, as well as the auto manufacturers is the emphasis for electric vehicle manufacturing which require fewer workers in many plants. The UAW is pushing for the salary increases to stay in line with the increases in profits and CEO salaries which have outpaced worker salaries, many of which were cut during the 2007 recession as part of a good faith agreement and have not rallied with inflation. The OEMs maintain that in order to be competitive with other EV manufacturers, the labor agreement must be more reasonable. The UAW is also asking for an end to tiered wages, the return of worker pensions and cost of living increases.
Of the strike, and the walkout strategy, UAS president Shawn Fain said in a Facebook Live stream, “This strategy will keep the companies guessing. It will give our national negotiators maximum leverage and flexibility in bargaining. And if we need to go all out, we will. Everything is on the table.”