The United Auto Workers Friday launched targeted strikes in Chicago and Lansing, Michigan at assembly plants belonging to Ford and General Motors, adding 7,000 workers to the union’s ongoing strike against Detroit Three automakers.
The UAW walkouts began at noon at Ford’s big assembly plant on the south side of Chicago and the GM assembly plants in Delta Township, just outside Lansing. The Chicago plant is the source of the Ford Explorer while Delta Township builds vehicles such as the Chevrolet Traverse.
Last minute save
UAW President Shawn Fain delayed the start of planned live Facebook Live appearance by more than 30 minutes to field some last-minute offers from the three automakers. But those offers didn’t stop him from ripping Detroit’s three automakers. The new walkouts mean nearly 26,000 of the union’s 150,000 members at the auto companies are on strike across the United States.
Fain said he was expanding the strike at GM and Ford because of the lack of progress during the bargaining during the past week.
The last-minute proposal from Stellantis was substantial enough not to add more of the company’s plants to the “Stand-Up Strike” the UAW began Sept. 15. “We’re excited about the progress at Stellantis,” said Fain, who has criticized the company throughout the negotiations.
However, after sparing Ford in the second wave of the targeted strike, the union elected to hit the company with another walkout because the automaker continued to balk at other union proposals.
GM appeared frustrated with the UAW’s decision to expand the strike.
“We still have not received a comprehensive counteroffer from UAW leadership to our latest proposal made on Sept. 21. Calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress. The number of people negatively impacted by these strikes is growing and includes our customers who buy and love the products we build,” GM said in an e-mailed statement.
Fain observed the UAW’s negotiations with Detroit’s three automakers have been intense during the past week. Uncorroborated reports surfaced the UAW has scaled back its demands for a wage increase. The union is pushing for 30% wage increase rather than 40% hike. Sources familiar with the UAW’s position are refusing to comment on the reports.
No agreement, however, has been reached on other UAW demands revolving around the tiered wage structures, cost-of-living adjustments, pensions, a shorter work week and the status of workers at the battery plants in which Detroit’s three automakers have a stake, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
Fain calls out violence
During the Facebook Live appearance, Fain also blasted the automakers for the violence along the picket lines around the country, underscoring the tensions created by the strike.
“Shame on GM and Stellantis for hiring scab contractors hiring violent scabs and standing by while they injure and threaten the lives of their employees,” said Fain in a YouTube video posted on the UAW website Thursday. “We will not tolerate violence against our picket lines from the companies or the scabs they hire.”
Fain said there have been three separate incidents, including one in which five UAW pickets were struck by a vehicle leaving the GM parts depot in Swartz Creek outside Flint, Michigan. In another incident guns were pointed at UAW pickets by contractors crossing a union picket line at a Stellantis parts depot in Ontario, California.
Stellantis described Fain’s comments in the video as “misleading,” and attacked the union for using violence to harass the company. The company also noted it hasn’t hired outside replacement workers or “scabs,” as Fain claims.
“The top levels of the UAW are aware of all this, yet Shawn Fain decided to make misleading and inflammatory statements, which will serve only to escalate the situation,” the company said in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed in the UAW leadership’s lack of ownership in this area, and we call on Shawn Fain and the entire UAW leadership to do its part to help ensure the safety of all Stellantis employees, including those on the picket line.
“Words matter. The deliberate use of inflammatory and violent rhetoric is dangerous and needs to stop. The companies are not ‘the enemy’ and we are not at ‘war.’ We respect our employees’ right to advocate for their position, including their right to peacefully picket,” it added.
Regarding the Flint incident, GM said, “The health and safety of all employees is General Motors’ overriding priority. On Tuesday, Sept. 26 a third-party housekeeping contractor, employed by Malace, is suspected of striking five picketing employees with his vehicle while attempting to exit the Flint Processing Center after working a shift performing normal sanitation responsibilities. GM is cooperating with local authorities in their investigation,” GM said.
The Genesee Metropolitan Police have a warrant for the arrest of the driver who struck the pickets. GM also said in response to the incident the automaker told the subcontractor the suspected employee along with two other employees who were in the vehicle at the time are no longer allowed on any GM property.
“Additionally, we have conducted safety talks at all GM facilities with active picketing activity to reinforce the expectation and requirement that any employees who experience picketers blockading entry or exit to our property contact site security to help them safely proceed past the picketing employees” GM said.
In October 2019, a 55-year-old UAW member was killed in what police determined was an accident while picketing outside an assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee during a strike against GM.