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UAW to Launch Wider Strikes at Ford and GM

The United Automobile Workers union has decided to extend its strike to two additional car assembly plants owned by Ford Motor and General Motors. This is an effort to increase pressure on the companies to meet the demands of higher pay and benefits made by the union.

The strikes began on September 15 at three plants, one each owned by GM, Ford, and Stellantis. However, the strike will not be expanded against Stellantis this week due to progress in negotiations with the company.

The UAW’s president, Shawn Fain, announced that workers at a Ford plant in Chicago and a GM factory in Lansing, Michigan, will go on strike. GM manufactures the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse SUVs at the Lansing plant, while Ford produces the Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility, and Lincoln Aviator in Chicago.

Fain stated in a livestreamed video that “Ford and GM have refused to make meaningful progress at the bargaining table.”

The Ford Chicago plant employs around 4,600 UAW members, and the GM Lansing plant has 2,300 union workers. Including the previous strikers, over 25,000 UAW members across the three companies have been called to stop working.

Last week, workers went on strike at 38 spare-parts distribution centers owned by GM and Stellantis. The UAW did not extend the strike at Ford due to significant progress in contract negotiations with the company.

The UAW is seeking a substantial wage increase for workers and initially demanded a 40% raise. The companies have offered approximately 20% over four years. Some agreements have been reached, including cost-of-living adjustments and the right to strike if plants are closed.

Negotiations have been ongoing, and the union recently presented a counteroffer to Stellantis. On Wednesday, the UAW and GM negotiating teams met with Fain in attendance.

In his online remarks, Fain mentioned a delay due to the companies’ interest in addressing bargaining issues, but did not provide further details.

A GM executive informed employees that the company is awaiting a comprehensive counteroffer from the union in response to an offer made on September 21.

Gerald Johnson, executive vice president for global manufacturing at GM, stated, “Calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress.” He expressed concerns over the growing number of people negatively affected by the strikes, including customers.

Ford has scheduled a conference call with reporters to respond to the UAW’s announcement.

There have been incidents on the picket lines, including minor injuries from a car hitting five strikers outside a GM plant in Flint, Michigan. Confrontations have also occurred at picket lines in California, Massachusetts, and Michigan.

Fain is expected to appear at a rally at the union’s headquarters in Detroit, and two union locals involved in the strike have called on workers to form a convoy of vehicles made in the idled plants to stop at the rally.

In a statement, Stellantis criticized Fain’s rhetoric and blamed the union for violence, stating that some strikers had engaged in tire slashing and harassment of nonstriking employees at parts warehouses.

This strike strategy differs from the UAW’s traditional approach of idling most or all operations at one company. The intention behind the limited strikes is to keep the companies guessing about which parts of their operations will be affected next, with the hope of improving the union’s negotiating position.

Expanding the strike also increases the financial cost to the union, which is paying striking workers $500 a week out of its strike fund totaling $825 million.

Santul Nerkar contributed reporting.

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