During his weekly Facebook Live address, UAW President Shawn Fain made it clear that despite their cries of “Uncle!” the Detroit Three automakers still have a little more to give. He also made it clear the union’s ready to attack GM’s and Stellantis’ most profitable plants.
United Auto Workers is holding off expanding its targeted strikes for now, but UAW President Shawn Fain warned more could be coming — and he’s already picked the sites.
He said union members at General Motors big truck plants in Arlington, Texas and Flint, Michigan as well as Stellantis workers in Sterling Heights, Michigan and Kokomo, Indiana and workers at the Ford Rouge complex outside Detroit ought to prepare for walkouts to put more pressure on the three automakers.
Talks continue, progress slow
During his weekly Facebook Live agreement, Fain noted the UAW’s negotiations with Detroit’s three automakers are reaching a critical point. But the union believes it can get more from the companies.
The current contract offers from all three companies remain short on wages, pensions, tiers, job security and treatment of temporary workers now and in the future, he added.
“Don’t let them divide us,” said Fain, noting one of “GM’s millionaire executives” appeared on a video this week, saying the union had nothing more to give. But the very next day the company offered more money, he railed.
Fain says the union is not just looking for a record contract, but a contract that will recover much of what union members have lost in the past decade and lift the wage of autoworkers in non-union plants, “thousands” of whom are now expressing an interest in joining the UAW.
For now, the negotiations continue to grind forward with latest offers from both Stellantis and GM, while Ford continues to “sulk” over the UAW strike at KTP even as it found $600 million for dividends to owners of Ford stock.
Companies put pressure on UAW
Earlier in the week, Mike Booth, the head of the UAW’s GM Department, waved off the video plea from GM Executive Vice President GM Gerald Johnson, who stated the automaker made a generous offer but cannot go much further without jeopardizing the company’s future and market share. The loss of market share would lead to the loss of union jobs, Johnson said.
Booth, however, told reporters he is willing to consider accepting a defined-contribution retirement plan rather than a defined-benefit plan, which was seen as the UAW’s preference at the start of the strike last month and alarmed Wall Street analysts.
Booth’s remarks were the first sign the UAW was willing to alter it demands for traditional pensions, and were amplified during by Fain, who outlined each company’s plans for fattening individual retirement accounts without mentioning any kind of defined benefit plans the industry abandoned more than a decade ago.
The UAW, however, wants concessions on the tiered wage structure and a move toward reducing the length of the traditional 40-hour work week, Fain said.
The new video of Johnson’s remarks about the negotiations echoed a speech earlier this week by Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., in which he warned the strikes and the UAW’s demands threaten the automaker’s ability to compete in the future and undermine its financial health to the detriment of entire U.S. auto industry.
Meanwhile, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock says during the rally, which included striking Detroit casino workers and strikers from Michigan Blue Cross-Blue Shield, said, “Our strike fund is strong and we’re here for the long haul.”
The “Stand Up Strike” against Detroit’s three automakers began on Sept. 15 with a walkout against GM Ford, and Stellantis assembly plants in Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. It has since grown to include six assembly plants and 38 parts distribution centers in 22 states.
The UAW notes Ford, GM and Stellantis made a quarter-trillion dollars in North American profits over the last decade. They made a combined $21 billion in total profits in just the first six months of this year. The UAW argues that record profits mean record contracts.
The most dramatic walkout came last week when the UAW shut down Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant, the largest truck factory in the world.
Along the way the autumn, the newly assertive UAW also has staged strikes against ZF, which was settled this week, Mack Truck, Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield and is participating in a strike by five different union against three different casinos. All the strike have involved demands for higher pay,
Meanwhile, the cost of the strike continue to mount. With 34,000 of the 150,000 union members they employ on strike, Detroit’s three automakers have idled another 5,000 employees, impacted by the strike, which also has sharply reduced inventories of popular models such as the Ford Rander and Chevrolet Colorado.
The Anderson Group of Lansing, Michigan estimates the strike has cost the economy more than $7.7 billion.