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What You Need to Know About the United Auto Workers’ Expansion of Strikes at Automakers

The United Automobile Workers union expanded its strike Friday at two large U.S. automakers — General Motors and Stellantis, the parent of Chrysler, Jeep and Ram — as negotiators remained far apart on key issues a week into the walkout.

The strike is not a full-scale walkout by the union’s roughly 150,000 members but a “limited and targeted” work stoppage, which began on Sept. 15 after workers’ four-year contracts expired. On Friday, the union cranked up the labor action to include 38 parts distribution centers at G.M. and Stellantis, but it did not include Ford in the expansion, citing progress in talks.

The union must negotiate separate deals with each of the companies on issues including pay and retirement benefits.

Mr. Fain had warned on Tuesday that the strike would expand if “we don’t see serious progress.” He said on Friday that talks with G.M. and Stellantis had not progressed significantly, and he called on workers at all the spare parts distribution centers of the two companies to walk out.

The affected locations include 18 G.M. distribution centers that employ a total of 3,475 workers, and 20 Stellantis centers with 2,150 U.A.W. members, according to the union. The expansion means about 18,300 U.A.W. workers are on strike or soon will be.

The U.A.W. has demanded a 40 percent wage increase over four years — an amount that union officials have said matches the raises the top executives at the three companies have received over the last four years. Those raises are also meant to compensate for more modest increases the autoworkers received in recent years and concessions the union made to the companies after the 2008 financial crisis.

The union is also seeking cost-of-living adjustments that would nudge wages higher to compensate for inflation. And it wants a reinstatement of pensions for all workers, improved retiree benefits and shorter work hours, as well as an end to a tiered wage system that starts new hires at much lower wages than the top U.A.W. pay of $32 an hour.

When the strike started, the companies had offered to raise pay around 14.5 percent to 20 percent over four years. Their offers include lump-sum payments to help offset the effects of inflation, and policy changes that would lift the pay of recent hires and temporary workers, who typically earn about a third less than veteran union members.

On Sept. 16, a top Stellantis executive said the company had proposed “job security” for about 1,350 people who lost their positions at a plant in Belvidere, Ill., that was closed indefinitely in February. Saving the plant was one of the U.A.W.’s priorities going into bargaining. The union rejected the Stellantis proposal before the strike started.

The U.A.W. president, Shawn Fain, said on Friday that the union has made “some real progress” with Ford, which was why it did not target any of its distribution centers. Ford conceded on cost-of-living adjustments for wages, the right to strike over plant closures and benefits for workers who are laid off, Mr. Fain said.

“At G.M. and Stellantis, it’s a different story,” he said in a Facebook livestream.

The companies say that they are investing billions in a transition to battery-powered vehicles, which makes it harder for them to pay substantially higher wages. They say they are at a disadvantage compared with nonunion automakers like Tesla, which dominates the sales of electric cars.

Mr. Fain has consistently said that the union will not settle for less than the 40 percent wage increases.

“If we don’t get better offers and we don’t get down to taking care of the members’ needs, then we’re going to amp this thing up even more,” Mr. Fain said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

The union is paying striking workers $500 per week and covering the cost of their health insurance premiums. The union’s $825 million strike fund is big enough to cover payments to workers in a full strike against all three companies for about three months — although the U.A.W. has said it would expand the stoppage only if talks were bogged down.

Only certain models of cars are affected right now, but if the strike lasts long enough to start affecting inventories, car dealers will have fewer vehicles on their lots and may start raising prices on the ones they do have.

This comes at a time when car prices had already been rising, and the average interest rates on auto loans had been climbing — making it harder for buyers to afford cars.

The expanded strikes at distribution centers — which provide parts to dealerships for repairs — could also impact those needing to fix their vehicles if the models are made by G.M. or Stellantis.

Daniel Victor and Jack Ewing contributed reporting.

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