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UAW strikes against the Big 3

By Cameron Kerkau Associate Editor, SME Media

The United Auto Workers (UAW) began a strike against Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis when its contracts expired at midnight on Thursday—the first time in history the labor union has targeted all of Detroit’s Big Three automakers at once.  

The strike started with a walkout of a single plant for each automaker: GM's Wentzville Assembly in Missouri, Stellantis's Toledo Assembly in Ohio and Ford's Michigan Assembly-Final Assembly and Paint in Wayne, Mich. These plants build the automakers’ popular SUVs, Jeeps and pickup trucks.  

UAW President President Shawn Fain calls the tactic a “Stand Up Strike,” as opposed to striking all plants at once. Named in reference to the Sit-Down Strikes of 1937, the method would have select local union chapters ready to stand up and walk out of their plants as called on. The UAW believes this will give its national negotiators “maximum leverage and maximum flexibility to win a record contract.”  

The union is demanding double-digit pay raises, a defined pension for all workers and retiree medical benefits along with other demands.  

Each of the automakers have released a statement expressing “disappointment” in response to the strike, with GM citing its “unprecedented” offer that was rejected.  

Delivering remarks on the strike today, President Biden voiced strong support for the UAW.  

“I've been in touch with both parties ever since this began over the last few weeks, and over the past decade auto companies have seen record profits, including the last few years, because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifices of the UAW workers. Those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers,” the President said.  

Biden heralded strong unions as critical to a growing economy, especially as manufacturing transitions into a “clean energy future,” referencing his administration’s “Investing in America” programs. This includes the Inflation Reduction Act that incentivizes investments in electric vehicle manufacturing, which is a point of interest for the UAW as workers in factories that produce EV batteries are generally not unionized.  

“We support a green economy,” Fain said during a recent virtual rally. “(But) you know, we have to get behind this. We have to have a plan that we can live on. If we don't secure this work and we don't secure it at a living standard, at Big Three standards, it's not going to be a good future for anyone,” he added. 

“I believe that transition should be fair and a win-win for auto workers and auto companies, but I also believe the contract agreement must lead to a vibrant made-in-America future that promotes good strong middle-class jobs,” President Biden asserted.  

The UAW plans to hold a "Rally to Save the American Dream" today at 5 p.m. featuring Fain and Sen. Bernie Sanders at the UAW-Ford Joint Trusts Center in Detroit.  

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