UAW expands strike, including Lansing GM plant
- UAW expands strike again, adding a GM assembly plant and 2,300 workers in Lansing to the facilities currently being struck
- Along with a Ford facility in Illinois, the move adds 7,000 workers to a strike that now totals 25,000 workers across 21 states
- Because of progress with Stellantis, UAW did not include any of its facilities in strike expansion
The United Auto Workers strike against the Big Three broadened Friday to include more than 2,300 workers at GM’s SUV plant in Lansing, with the union also announcing a strike at Ford’s Chicago Assembly plant.
The two-week-old strike now includes the Lansing/Delta Township Assembly facility, where the Buick Enclave and the Chevrolet Traverse are built.
GM is the fourth largest employer in Lansing, and the workers now on striker represent just over half of the company’s local workforce.
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But in announcing the new strike plants, UAW President Shawn Fain said negotiation progress with Stellantis, the owner of the former Fiat-Chrysler, had him “excited” and no new Stellantis facilities were struck.
Fain said Stellantis, which employs nearly 23,000 workers in Detroit, Sterling Heights and other southeast Michigan communities, had offered improved terms on cost-of-living increases and other provisions.
But Fain expressed displeasure with negotiations with Ford and GM and his call for strikes at the two facilities adds 7,000 workers to the 18,000 already on strike.
“Our anger is righteous and our struggle is just,” Faid said, during a Facebook live event Friday at which the new strike targets were announced. “We are fed up with corporate greed and we are fed up with corporate access. We are fed up with breaking our bodies for companies that take more and more and give less and less.”
An executive vice president for GM said Friday that the company had not received a “comprehensive counteroffer” from the union to its Sept. 21 proposal and said the company is willing to continue negotiations.
“Calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress,” Gerald Johnson, executive vice president for global manufacturing and sustainability, said in a statement. “Our current, record proposal that is on the table offers historic wage increases and job security while not jeopardizing our future.”
President Joe Biden backed the UAW in an historic visit to the picket line at GM’s Willow Run distribution center on Tuesday, marking the first time a sitting president had visited a picket line in support of labor. Like Fain, he pointed to corporate profits and the need to back workers, saying he supported efforts to dramatically raise worker pay.
Fain, who met with Biden and who clashed with former President Donald Trump over his visit to a non-union auto parts plant in Macomb County on Wednesday, was buoyed by the Biden visit.
“I want to be clear about one thing about the president's historic visit. The most powerful man in the world showed up for one reason, only — because our solidarity is the most powerful force in the world,” Fain said Friday morning. “When we stand together united in the cause of economic and social justice there's nothing we can't do.”
Fain’s praise of Stellantis echoes what he had said about Ford a week ago, when he claimed progress around cost-of-living increases and did not include Ford in last week’s expansion of the strike that included 38 distribution centers operated by GM and Stellantis.
This week, Stellantis got the praise — and the reprieve. A Stellantis official acknowledged the progress and the work that remains.
“We have made progress in our discussions, but gaps remain,” the company said in a statement released by spokesperson Jodi Tinson Friday afternoon.
Ford President and CEO Jim Farley pushed back on the union in a pointed press briefing Friday afternoon, saying that Ford had for years improved wages outside of collective bargaining and had made an “incredible” offer to the union that would “change the lives” of Ford’s 57,000 UAW members.
Farley claimed that Fain and the union was holding up the deal — “holding it hostage,” he said — over calls to have a greater say over electric battery plants Ford intends to build and operate in Michigan and elsewhere, including in Marshall, where it has “paused” plans to build a $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant expected to employ 2,500 workers.
The UAW is pressing for wage hikes and job security measures amid the transition to electric vehicles, which require far fewer parts. But automakers including Ford have warned that their long-term profitability could be hindered by increased labor costs.
On Friday, Farley said no workers would lose their jobs to the EV transition during the life of the contract or for the foreseeable future.
Ford is “open to work with (the) union on a fair deal for battery plants. But these are multi-billion dollar investments and the future of our industry is in the balance,” Farley said. “And they have to make good business sense.”
The UAW, which represents about 150,000 autoworkers, is pushing for higher wages and the elimination of the tiered wage scale agreed upon in 2007 when the industry was struggling, with two automakers GM and then-Chrysler later seeking bankruptcy protection in 2009.
Top pay for a UAW assembly plant worker has been $32 per hour, with the union seeking a raise to $47.14. But newer hires start at under $20 per hour and can spend eight years climbing to the top tier of pay and benefits. Temporary workers, used to fill open shifts, start at under $17 per hour.
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