Promising Conversation between Carmakers and United Auto Workers; Will the Strike Soon Come to an End?

The United Auto Workers and Detroit’s Big Three carmakers have resumed talks in an effort to end a strike that is now in its fourth day. There is also the looming threat that the strike could soon spread.

Stellantis has announced that negotiations with the union have resumed and the talks have been described as “constructive.” General Motors has also confirmed that negotiations with the UAW are ongoing.

However, UAW President Shawn Fain emphasized on NPR that “We have a long way to go.” He stated that if the companies fail to respond to the union’s demands, they will escalate their actions.

Currently, the strike is limited to approximately 13,000 workers at three factories, one each at GM, Ford, and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler).

Nevertheless, the success of the union’s strategy depends on their ability to quickly escalate the strike. The carmakers are warning of potential layoffs as the limited strike reduces the amount of material needed at the remaining open plants.

GM has already announced that 2,000 UAW-represented workers at an assembly plant in Kansas City are expected to be idled in the coming week due to a shortage of supplies from a GM plant near St. Louis, where workers walked off the job last Friday.

Workers at the Kansas City plant are responsible for building the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac XT4.

The strike may also begin to impact suppliers and their employees. CIE Newcor has notified Michigan officials that they anticipate a one-month closure of four plants in the state starting on October 2, which will idle nearly 300 workers.

The Biden administration has shown concern about the potential economic and political consequences of the strike. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen stated that while she hopes for a quick resolution, it is too early to assess the strike’s effects.

Yellen also noted that labor activism throughout the year, such as strikes by Hollywood writers and actors, as well as workers at Starbucks locations and potential walkouts at United Parcel Service and West Coast ports, has been driven by a strong labor market and high demand for workers.

President Biden has dispatched two top administration officials to Detroit to meet with both sides. Biden has publicly supported the UAW, stating that the automakers have not adequately shared their record profits with workers.

Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior aide Gene Sperling will not act as mediators but are there to “help support the negotiations in any way the parties feel is constructive.”

Fain clarified that the Biden administration will not broker a deal, stating, “This is our battle. Our members are out there manning the picket lines. This battle is not about the president, it’s not about the former president.”

The UAW is seeking a 36% wage increase over four years, while the companies have offered around 20%. The union is also demanding a 32-hour workweek for 40 hours of pay, among other changes.

Instead of launching a full strike involving all 146,000 members, the union has chosen to target three factories, a plan that could maximize the longevity of their $825-million strike fund. Workers have walked out of a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford plant near Detroit, and a Stellantis factory in Toledo, Ohio, which produces Jeeps.

A key aspect of the UAW strategy is the threat to escalate the strike if they are dissatisfied with the pace of negotiations. Fain mentioned that more factories could be targeted, stating, “It could be in a day, it could be in a week.”


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