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UAW Strike Widens to More Plants, but Ford Negotiations Show Progress

The United Automobile Workers (UAW) union is expanding its strike against two Detroit automakers as the walkout enters its second week. UAW President Shawn Fain announced that workers at 38 spare parts distribution centers at General Motors (GM) and Stellantis would join the strike at noon. Fain stated, “We will shut down parts distribution centers until those two companies come to their senses and come to the bargaining table.” The strike includes all parts distribution centers at GM and Stellantis but excludes new facilities at Ford Motor, as Ford has made progress in meeting the union’s demands. Fain clarified that negotiations with Ford are ongoing.

Tensions between the UAW and the automakers were already high before the expansion of the strike. Previously, private messages sent by a union communications manager indicated that the union leaders were satisfied with the strike’s impact on the manufacturers. Jonah Furman, hired to direct UAW’s media relations, mentioned that the strike was causing reputational damage and operational chaos for the automakers. The leaked messages were published in The Detroit News. GM criticized the union for showing a “callous disregard for the seriousness of what is at stake” in the strike, and accused the UAW leadership of intending to cause months of disruption.

The expansion of the strike bears consequences for both sides and could potentially halt production at other plants owned by the automakers and their suppliers. The UAW is providing striking workers with $500 per week from its $825 million strike fund, while the affected plants’ continued closure causes the manufacturers to lose millions of dollars in revenue daily.

A week prior, the UAW had called for strikes at a GM pickup truck plant in Missouri, a Ford factory in Michigan, and a Stellantis-owned Jeep plant in Ohio. The union is demanding a significant wage increase, considering the automakers’ substantial profits over the last decade and the pay raises given to their top executives. The UAW initially requested a 40% increase, while the companies offered around a 20% increase over four years. Additionally, the UAW aims to expand pension eligibility, secure retiree healthcare paid by the company, reduce working hours, ensure job security for workers in case of plant closures, and abolish the wage system that requires new hires to start at lower wages.

Peter Berg, a professor of employment relations at Michigan State University, explained that the UAW’s strategy of limiting strikes to specific locations reduces the cost of supporting striking workers from the union’s strike fund. However, it also affects the manufacturers as those plants produce some of their most profitable vehicles. The key question is whether the union can maintain unity and solidarity if the strike prolongs.

Workers at Stellantis’ North American headquarters in Michigan expressed their enthusiasm to join the strike if called upon. Marnice Alford, who works at a Stellantis plant in Sterling Heights, near Detroit, stated, “President Fain has got fight. I like that.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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