Detroit Regional Chamber > Media Coverage > More UAW Members Join Strike, Ford Says EV Plants Stalling Negotiations

More UAW Members Join Strike, Ford Says EV Plants Stalling Negotiations

October 3, 2023

Sept. 29, 2023
Elena Durnbaugh

An additional 7,000 UAW members joined the Stand-Up Strike against the Detroit Three at noon on Friday.

UAW President Shawn Fain announced during a Facebook Live event Friday morning that the union was expanding its strike against Ford and General Motors due to lack of progress in negotiations.

The Ford Chicago Assembly plant and the GM Lansing Delta Assembly plant will take to the picket line and join the 18,000 UAW members already on strike against the automakers across 41 facilities in 21 states.

“To restore the balance of power, we have to restore the strike,” Fain said. “That’s what every one of our striking members is doing.”

Fain highlighted President Joe Biden’s visit to the GM Willow Run Distribution Center picket line earlier this week.

“The most powerful man in the world showed up for one reason: because our solidarity is the most powerful force in the world,” he said. “Our strength is the hope of working-class people everywhere.”

Fain said that just like the UAW built B-24 liberator bombers during World War II to become the arsenal of democracy 80 years ago, striking UAW workers were establishing a new arsenal of democracy.

“This war isn’t against some foreign country. The front lines are right here at home,” he said. “It’s the war of the working class versus corporate greed. We are the new arsenal of democracy. The workers are the liberators, and our strike is the vehicle for liberation.”

Just like in any war, Fain acknowledged that striking involved violence, saying that in the last week, picketers have experienced threats from people crossing the picket line.

“We’ve had guns pulled on us. Trucks and cars ran through us, and violent threats hurled at us,” he said. “I want to be absolutely clear: We will not be intimidated into backing down by the companies or their scabs. Our cause is just – striking for a better future to protect our communities and to defeat corporate greed is not just our right. It’s our duty.”

Despite the expanding strike, Fain said that negotiations are ongoing with the automakers, though Ford and GM have not made progress with the union during the last week.

“We’re still talking with all three companies, and I’m still very hopeful that we can reach a deal that reflects the incredible sacrifices and contributions our members have made over the last decade,” Fain said. “What we win at the bargaining table depends on the power we build on the job. It’s time to use that power.”

Ford issued a statement Friday saying that the Union was holding up negotiations based on battery plants, which the automaker said would not be online for another two or three years.

“There is still time to reach an agreement and avert disaster – but not much time given the fragile supply base,” the statement said.

Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley said that if the UAW’s goal was a record contract, then the union has already achieved that.

“It is grossly irresponsible to escalate these strikes and hurt thousands of families,” he said in a statement.

The automaker said that it has already offered wage increases of more that 20 percent, traditional cost-of-living allowances, and health care coverage that is in the top 1 percent for all Americans. Ford said it has also agreed to eliminate wage tiers, boost retirement contributions, and grant more time off.

“The billions in costs the UAW leadership is demanding – beyond the billions Ford has offered – would have devastating implications for Ford’s business and the company’s ability to protect good-paying union jobs going forward,” the statement said. “Ford has invested more in UAW-represented employees than any other automakers, standing alone in adding UAW jobs since the Great Recession and exceeding its investment and job commitments for three consecutive UAW contracts.”

Stellantis agreed to the cost-of-living allowance, the right not to cross the picket line, and the right to strike over product commitments and plant closures and outsourcing moratoriums on Friday morning.

“We are excited about this momentum with Stellantis and hope it continues,” Fain said. “Until then, we will keep building our arsenal of democracy and we will win. Our strategy is working.”

Stellantis issued a statement on Friday, acknowledging its progress with the union.

“Stellantis has been intensely working with the UAW to find solutions to the issues that are of most concern to our employees while ensuring the company can remain competitive given the market’s fierce competition,” a statement from Jodi Tinson with Stellantis Corporate Communications said. “We have made progress in our discussions, but gaps remain. We are committed to continue 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 Detroit Regional Chamber sent an open letter to Michigan businesses, government, labor, and civic leaders on Friday emphasizing that the strike was about America’s automotive future and the role the state must play in it.

The letter says the UAW workers deserve a raise and that the dynamics of the auto industry have changed drastically since 1965, or even 2008, with more competitors and new global market dynamics.

“The last time the Detroit three were not on the leading edge was during the small car craze of the 1970s. The companies, the workers, and Michigan’s economy paid a big price, as many refused to adapt to new market realities,” the letter said. “Similarly, today’s EVs are treated as a political issue, not a business reality.”

The global market is driving the adoption of new technologies, the Chamber said. Not partisan rhetoric or wishful thinking.

The Chamber said that even today’s “limited” strike has a $1.6 billion economic impact, citing Anderson Economic Group.

“Michigan has been – and can continue to be – a world leader in the innovation, technology and manufacturing of devices that make the movement of people and goods possible. But our past success does not guarantee future success,” the letter said. “Today’s temptation is to treat every challenge as a political one. In this case, it is about Michigan’s economic future. It is critical that all of Michigan leaders – political, industry, labor and civic – use their influence to push toward a resolution of fairness and long-term viability for Michigan and its signature industry.”

Zack Pohl, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, in a statement said a prolonged strike would have catastrophic effects in the face of a federal government shutdown.

“Michigan has always been a place where people can come to get a good-paying job with great benefits that affords every family a quality middle-class lifestyle — and we need to keep it that way. The prospect of a prolonged strike combined with a federal shutdown is the greatest threat to the American economy, future job growth, and our state’s fiscal health if a deal is not made soon,” Pohl said. “Right now, we are working with companies around the world to create tens of thousands of jobs in Michigan. We’ve led the way supporting working men and women by passing the historic Restoring Workers’ Rights legislation, while also landing record investments from companies who are bringing jobs and manufacturing back to Michigan from overseas. All of this work and our ability to attract future union jobs is in jeopardy if the impacts of the strike on this industry grow. The governor will always have working people’s back which is why we need to get a deal done ASAP so everyone can get back to work making the best cars and trucks in the world. Time is of the essence.”

Fain said that the union continued to be willing to negotiate with the automakers.

“We knew going into this fight that the road ahead was going to be difficult,” he said. “When we win this fight … and when we set a new course for future generations, it won’t be because of any president. Not the UAW president, not the president of the United States. It will be because ordinary people did extraordinary things.”