As all involved dig in for what’s become an increasingly contentious struggle over a new labor contract, the United Auto Workers expanded its “Stand-Up” strikes to include 38 parts distribution warehouses belonging to General Motors and Stellantis — while sparing Ford Motor Co.
“This will expand our strike nationwide,” said UAW President Shawn Fain during a Facebook Live appearance Friday morning.
Ford was spared in the strike expansion since company and union negotiators have made serious and steady progress during the bargaining this week even though no tentative deal has been reached, Fain revealed.
The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said it “is working diligently with the UAW to reach a deal that rewards our workforce and enables Ford to invest in a vibrant and growing future. Although we are making progress in some areas, we still have significant gaps to close on the key economic issues. In the end, the issues are interconnected and must work within an overall agreement that supports our mutual success.
Meanwhile, GM and Stellantis have launched new broadsides this week what is now becoming an increasingly contentious struggle between the union and both companies.
Both companies claim the union’s proposals calling for a 46% wage increase, the end of the tiered wage structure, a 32-hour work week and the restoration of cost-of-living adjustments and defined benefit pensions, were unworkable and unsustainable.
The tensions were further exacerbated by the disclosure of text messages from a key UAW official — Communications director Jonah Furman — sent to a friend on X, formerly known as Twitter, which is owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, an outspoken critic of the UAW.
The UAW has spent millions of dollars on legal fees fighting Musk who has used lawyers and the courts to block the union’s efforts to sign up members inside Tesla plants. Those efforts continue, according to the UAW.
Having Furman put text on X was a bit like Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky sending messages to the generals fighting Russian troops via the Russian postal or telephone services in Moscow, observers noted.
Furman’s texts spoke of keeping the automakers guessing for “months” and doing “reputational damage” to Detroit’s automakers. Furman, who worked for the Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s Democratic Socialists of America, may have inadvertently disclosed his use of X when the union tweeted out a new release earlier this week without bothering to put it on the union’s website or Facebook page.
GM and Stellantis were quick to react to Furman’s text messages.
“These reported comments made by the UAW Communications Director are incredibly disturbing and strongly indicate that the UAW’s approach to these talks is not in the best interest of the workforce. We are disappointed that it appears our employees are being used as pawns in an agenda that is not intended to meet their needs,” Stellantis said in a statement.
GM said, “It’s now clear that the UAW leadership has always intended to cause months-long disruption, regardless of the harm it causes to its members and their communities. The leaked information calls into question who is in charge of UAW strategy and shows a callous disregard for the seriousness of what is at stake.
“UAW leadership needs to put the interests of its members and the country over their own ideological and personal agendas. We’ve put a 5th record offer on the table and are ready, as we always have been, to bargain in good faith to reach a deal that rewards our team members and allows GM to succeed and thrive into the future.”
Dealers may feel pinch
During his Facebook live appearance, Fain said UAW members will remain on strike at Ford’s assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan where some 3,600 blue-collar workers walked off the job Sept. 15.
Union members also remain on strike at other plants, including about 5,800 at the Stellantis Jeep complex in Toledo, Ohio and about 3,800 workers at the GM assembly plants in Wentzville, Missouri, where the work stoppage has led to the idling of GM’s assembly plant in Fairfax, putting 2,000 workers on temporary layoffs, Fain said.
“Both GM and Stellantis are going to need to make some serious progress,” says Fain.
The targeted strikes will strain both companies’ ability to deliver to dealerships the parts required to service customers’ vehicles at a time when more and more consumers are depending on the purchase of used vehicles and the repairs to the ones they already own.
Additionally, the UAW appears to have driven a wedge between Detroit’s automakers as Ford, according to Fain, has agreed to give the union the right to strike over proposed plant closings, which is something both GM and Stellantis — and its predecessors — have resisted since the 1980s.
Fain also said the UAW is continuing its strike at a ZF plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which is threatening to shut down the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Tuscaloosa. The ZF plant supplies axle assemblies and the UAW is resisting the company’s demands for tiers, and concessions on health-care benefits that would leave workers with less money than under their old contract, according to Fain.
ZF says it is attempting to operate the plant with salaried employees and temporary workers. Mercedes officials said they are monitoring the situation.