United Auto Workers members walked off the job at three major automotive plants belonging to Ford, General Motors and Stellantis overnight, thrusting the automotive industry into uncertainty as workers demand higher wages and better working conditions.
The strategy of striking against all three automakers but at select plants — with the possibility of expanding the strike if necessary — is new for the union.
Patrick Anderson, an economist, said such a tactic could have far-reaching consequences for the industry, potentially leading to the shutdown of more plants than initially intended.
“It’s a dangerous thing to say you’re gonna strike just some plants but not others, because that’s not how the industry can operate. And you will see more than just those plants shut down if that takes place,” said Anderson.
While striking workers will receive $500 a week in strike pay from UAW, the repercussions of a prolonged strike extend beyond the assembly lines.
Suppliers like Global Technology, which manufactures wheels for several car makers, face the risk of a significant business slowdown. A strike that lasts more than a few weeks could force the company’s CEO Dale Hadel to lay off some of his 2,000 U.S. employees.
“It’s bad for my business. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for my workers because again, they’re touching this product every day and their livelihood is reliant upon these products moving,” Hadel said.
The first wave of the UAW strike targeted plants in Missouri, Ohio and Michigan, posing a significant challenge to Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. Union President Shawn Fain joined workers on the picket line outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Indiana, and said that the strike was about getting “our share of economic justice.”
The UAW has been advocating for up to a 40% pay increase, while the automakers are offering approximately half of that. Additionally, the union is pushing for a four-day workweek and a return of pensions for hourly employees, proposals that have yet to gain traction with the companies.
Ford CEO Jim Farley defended the automakers’ position, stating it is simply not possible.
“What their initial offer was, is to pay our hourly workers about $300,000 each, and to work four days, that would basically put our company out of business,” he said.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra said her company has put multiple offers forward.
“We’ve been at the table since July 18th. We received over 1,000 demands,” Barra told “CBS Mornings” on Friday. “We put four offers on the table.”
She said she is “very proud” of the “historic” offer the company put on the table Thursday.