In Detroit, Shawn Fain, head of the United Auto Workers union, announced a strike on Thursday in an effort to keep the companies guessing.
Tonight, for the first time in history, we will strike all three of the Big Three at once. We will call on select facilities, locals or units to stand up and go on strike. This strategy will keep the companies from being misunderstood. It will provide our national negotiators with maximum leverage and flexibility in bargaining. The cause is righteous. The world is watching. Workers walked off the job at 3 initial sites in a targeted labor action against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis - the first ever of all three at once.
Thousands of union members went on strike Friday at three plants in three Midwestern states in what was the first strike simultaneously affecting all three Detroit automakers. Chrysler and General Motors remained deadlocked in negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement, when the current contract expired at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. As the deadline loomed, workers began to fan out at the target plants - in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio - to protest. At the outset, the strike will shut down one plant owned by each automaker, and could force the automakers to stop production in other locations, shaking local economies in factory towns across the Midwest.
Shawn Fain, the union's president, said on Thursday night in a video streamed via Facebook. In the 88 years since its founding, the union has called strikes aimed at a single automaker, and a handful have halted production for several weeks. In 2019 the plants were shut down for 40 days before the company and the union agreed on a new contract. As of Friday, the unionized plants represented only a small portion of all G.M., Ford and Stellantis unionized factories. At Ford's Assembly Plant in Wayne, which makes the Bronco alongside the Ranger pickup, only workers from the assembly area and paint shop will walk out, Fain said. The plant employs 3,600 hourly workers, according to the union, and the Stellantis plant employs 5,800. The union said about 3,300 workers at Ford's Assembly Plant in Michigan would be affected. The union has asked for a 40 percent increase over the next four years, noting that the compensation packages for the chief executive of the three companies have increased about that much, on average, over the last four years. In response to inflation, Fain has proposed cost-of-living adjustments that nudge wages higher in response to inflation, shorter workweeks, improvements to retiree pensions, and job security measures like the ability to strike at plants that are designated for closing. To top the U.A.W., he wants changes to a wage scale that starts new hires at about $17 an hour and requires eight years for them to climb up to the top. The wage is $32 per hour.
The company said its offer included a 20 percent wage hike over the life of the new contract, including a 10 percent increase in the first year and cost-of-living adjustments, but only for more senior workers. It also said it would allow new hires to reach the highest wage after four years on the job. Mary T. Barra, the company s chief executive, said in a video posted to a company website Thursday night. ve said the most important things that matter most: wage growth, job security and long-term stability. She also suggested that meeting all or all of the union's demands could harm the company's prospects as it invests tens of billions of dollars in its transition to electric vehicles.
We will lose ground and it will happen quickly if we continue to invest. Ford and Stellantis also sent out fresh proposals to the union in the 48 hours before the deadline, but did not release details. The Biden administration said Thursday that President Biden had spoken with Mr. Fain and with the leaders of the auto companies about the status of the talks. But a White House official said that Mr. Biden was not pressing the companies or the union on the particulars, but that he was encouraging all sides to stay at the table and to make sure that workers got a fair contract. The union's demands for substantial increased pay and new benefits are a sharp departure from the past 20 years, when the automakers were ailing and the U.S. was thriving. The companies had to accept significant concessions to help them survive. More recently, G.M., Ford, and Stellantis have been reporting near-record earnings. In the first half of this year, Ford earned $3.7 billion and G.M. were both $3.7 billion in the first half of the year. In all, the company made $5 billion.