Workers seek higher pay and other improvements in labor agreements from the Big Three.
By Gavin Steele, Guest Writer
The United Auto Workers union (UAW) expanded its strike last week against General Motors (GM) and Stellantis — the parent company of Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler — as negotiations remained tense and divided on key issues. The UAW has also begun talks with Ford to come to a new labor agreement in its continued strike against the automaker.
The strike is not a full-scale walkout but is a “limited and targeted” work stoppage by approximately 12,700 UAW members, which began on Sept. 15 after workers’ four- year work contracts expired. The strikes began with one plant from each of the companies but expanded to include 38 other Stellantis and GM facilities.
The enlarged strike affected 18 GM distribution centers that employ a total of 3,475 workers and 20 Stellantis centers with 2,150 UAW workers. The standoff comes at a time of broader labor unrest and has fueled speculations of prolonged disruptions in production and the supply chain.
The UAW has demanded a 40% wage increase over four years, which is an amount that union officials say matches the pay increase of the three companies’ top executives over the same time period. The union has also sought to end tiered benefit packages, receive payment plans that have a cost-of-living adjustment, create more profit sharing, make new retirement plans, improve retirement benefits and attain higher job security.
Shawn Fain, the president of the UAW, noted that the distance in pay between the automakers’ top executives and the auto worker reflects increasing economic inequality in the United States.
“This is what’s wrong with our economy, and this is what’s wrong with America right now. The billionaire class keeps taking more and more, and the working class keeps getting left behind,” he stated.
Ford has made concessions in these areas, and despite progress in negotiation, the company stated that it still has “significant gaps to close” on economic issues before it can reach a new labor agreement with the union.
“At GM and Stellantis, it’s a completely different story,” Fain said. Stellantis and GM have made little to no concessions in the negotiations.
When the strike started, the automakers offered to raise pay to around 14.5-20% over four years, including lump-sum payments and job security for workers who lost positions. However, Fain insisted that the union would not settle for less than the 40% they seek.
The GM Cincinnati Parts Distribution Center, located in West Chester, is a part of the 38-plant expansion of the strikes. The plant employs 123 people and accounts for $10.3 million in wages every year, which the union hopes can increase.
During the strike, workers are set to receive about $500 a week in pay, which is well short of what they earn while they are working. As a result, millions of dollars in wages may become removed from the economy.
Many politicians have come out in support of the UAW, including representatives from Ohio. Senator Sherrod Brown has posted on his social media that he stands with the UAW and is calling on the auto manufacturers to make a fair deal with the workers.
“I am among the most pro-labor Republicans in the U.S. Senate,” Senator J.D. Vance said. He showed his support of auto workers in Ohio and throughout the country.
Biden walked with the union yesterday in Michigan, joining workers on the picket lines to show his support for their strike and urging workers to “stick with it.” Former president Donald Trump is skipping the second Republican debate tonight to meet with striking autoworkers in Michigan and address the issue in an event there.