September 18, 2023
UAW members go on 'historic' strike as deadline to reach new contract expires
Thousands of auto workers at three U.S. assembly plants went on strike when their United Auto Workers union and the Big Three automakers failed to come to an agreement on a new contract.
"The UAW Stand Up Strike begins at all Three of the Big Three," the union said on social media as the deadline to reach a deal expired.
"Be ready to stand up for your family. Be ready to stand up for your community. Be ready to stand up against corporate greed," it said in a separate post with photos of picketing auto workers. "Let's stand up and make history."
The three local units that went on strike were Local 2250 of the General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Mo.; Local 12 at Stellantis' assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio; and Local 900 at Ford Motor Co.'s assembly plant in Michigan.
Shawn Fain, president of UAW, joined picketers at the Ford assembly plant early Friday.
"Enough is enough," he said in a statement that accompanied a picture of him talking to media at the site. "It's time to decide what kind of a world we want to live in. And it's time to decide what we are willing to do to get there."
Fain had announced Thursday night less than two hours before the deadline that if a tentative was not reached before midnight, the union "will strike all three" Detroit carmakers at once for the first time in history.
"Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will strike all three of the big three at once."
The strike followed an 11th-hour agreement with the Detroit Three automakers to move labor contract negotiations to UAW headquarters to save time by keeping Fain from having to drive between their three headquarters dozens of miles apart.
Prior to the deadline passing, negotiations had appeared to be making some progress, and GM put another economic offer on the table, indicating the company was ready to negotiate all the way to the deadline. According to The Detroit News, that offer included a wage increase of 20%.
Ford, however, suggested late Thursday that the union ahead of the deadline was being reluctant to negotiate.
In a statement, the automaker said that since late August it has presented UAW with four proposals, the latest of which was "historically generous," and that the union submitted its "first substantive counterproposal" at 8 p.m. that night.
"Unfortunately, the UAW's counterproposal tonight showed little movement from the union's initial demands submitted Aug. 3," it said, stating that if it agreed to the UAW's terms, Ford's labor costs would more than double.
The University of Michigan forecast predicts more than a million people could lose their jobs nationwide after an eight-week strike at all three carmakers.
An analysis from the Anderson Economic Group, a company that has previously consulted with the Detroit Three, has predicted that the total economic loss from a strike could reach more than $5 billion after 10 days.
"When the UAW went on strike against GM in 2019, Michigan experienced a single quarter recession," AEG principal and chief executive Patrick Anderson said in a statement.
Fain has dismissed corporate arguments that a rise in hourly wages would lead to a rise in car prices, as well as damage the economy.
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Did You Know
The History of the UAW
In May of 1935, the United Auto Workers (UAW) came into existence in Detroit, Michigan, as an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The AFL had previously concentrated its efforts on organizing craft unions while avoiding involvement in large-scale factory environments. However, a faction of industrial unions, led by John L. Lewis, established the Committee for Industrial Organization within the AFL during its 1935 convention, thus forming the original CIO. Within a year, the AFL suspended the unions aligned with the CIO, leading to the creation of the rival Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), of which the UAW became a part.
The UAW swiftly achieved success through the utilization of the sit-down strike tactic. The first notable instance occurred in an Atlanta, Georgia, General Motors Corporation plant in 1936, followed by the more famous Flint sit-down strike commencing on December 29, 1936. This latter strike concluded in February 1937 with Michigan's governor, Frank Murphy, acting as a mediator, resulting in General Motors recognizing the UAW. The subsequent month, auto workers at Chrysler also secured UAW recognition through a sit-down strike. By mid-1937, the burgeoning union boasted 150,000 members and was extending its reach into automotive and parts manufacturing communities in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.
The UAW's next objective was the unionization of the Ford Motor Company, which had staunchly resisted such efforts for a considerable period. Ford manager Harry Bennett employed coercive tactics to keep the union out of Ford, establishing the Ford Service Department as an internal security, intimidation, and espionage unit within the company. This department did not hesitate to employ violence against union organizers and their supporters. It wasn't until 1941 that Ford finally agreed to a collective bargaining agreement with the UAW.
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