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Mājas Technology UAW begins historic strike against all 3 Detroit automakers

UAW begins historic strike against all 3 Detroit automakers

UAW begins historic strike against all 3 Detroit automakers

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Talks stalled in the final hours of negotiations, even as the automakers offered record raises as high as 20%.


UAW pickets emerged late Thursday at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., just west of Detroit.

DETROIT — In a historic gambit, nearly 13,000 hourly workers at three large assembly plants went on strike against the Detroit 3 early Friday in what UAW President Shawn Fain has framed as a “righteous fight” against the rich to get better wages and benefits for the working class.

Never in the UAW’s 88-year history has it attempted a simultaneous strike against Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Chrysler, now part of Stellantis. The union plans to expand the work stoppage at yet-to-be-determined intervals to ratchet up pressure on the automakers, a novel tactic Fain has branded a “stand-up strike” to mirror the sit-down strikes of the UAW’s early years.

The walkout will immediately halt production of profitable, high-demand vehicles including the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado and could have devastating ripple effects on suppliers, contractors, dealers and the broader economy in the coming weeks if new deals remain elusive, experts have said. The first plants the UAW ordered to strike are in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.


UAW President Shawn Fain meets with the press early Friday outside the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich.

Talks appeared to stall in the final hours of negotiations, even as the automakers increased their contract proposals to record levels, including raises as high as 20 percent. Ford CEO Jim Farley spoke out in frustration earlier Thursday over what he characterized as inaction by the union as the 11:59 p.m. deadline neared. The union refused to extend the four-year contracts it signed in 2019, as it often has done in past negotiations.

Strike targets

The sites in the first round of Fain’s planned “stand-up strike” are:

  • GM’s Wentzville Assembly plant near St. Louis, where it builds the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups and Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans.
  • Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant west of Detroit, which builds the Bronco and Ranger.
  • Stellantis’ Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, which builds the Jeep Gladiator and Wrangler.

The three plants employ about 13,000 hourly workers, or about 9 percent of the UAW’s Detroit 3 membership.

Shortly after midnight, Fain joined protestors outside the Michigan Assembly Plant west of Detroit, where he was mobbed by a mix of media and workers.

Fain appeared jubilant, smiling and leading chants as he crossed Michigan Avenue. At one point, he embraced a beaming UAW Vice President Chuck Browning on the median of Michigan Avenue amid cheers and a near constant stream of honking from passing cars.

Fain applauded his members.

“They’re the first ones out and I’m damn proud of them,” he said, noting the union would stay on strike “as long as it takes.”

Michael Huddleston, a 35-year-old temporary worker at Michigan Assembly, said it was important for him to be at the plant at midnight.

“I look at it as longevity,” he said. “I make $17.67 an hour. You can’t really live off that.”

He said he can barely afford his Chevy truck payment.

“I want them to take care of us,” he said. “People at McDonald’s provide better than what we can provide right now.”

Fain also pushed back on allegations the union did not bargain seriously with the companies.

“They waited until the last week to want to get down to business,” Fain said. “Shame on them, and what they’re saying’s complete BS.”

GM response

GM, in a statement, said it received official notice from the union that workers at the Wentzville plant were on strike. “We are disappointed by the UAW leadership’s actions, despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments,” the company said.

“We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the U.S. In the meantime, our priority is the safety of our workforce.”

Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing and sustainability, in a video to employees released shortly after midnight Friday, said: “Unfortunately, we did not reach an agreement by the Sept. 14 deadline. I want you to know it wasn’t due to lack of effort. I believe we made four compelling offers, each being adjusted based on the feedback we were getting from the UAW discussions.

“Our bargaining teams on both sides have worked and will continue to work hard to make sure that we’re able to find a solution. Our goal remains the same: We expect a fair contract which rewards team members and also protects our company’s future.”

In an earlier statement, Ford said that the union responded with a “substantive counterproposal” around 8 p.m. Thursday but that the two sides remained far from a deal.


The scene outside Jeep’s Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio early Friday morning.

“Unfortunately, the UAW’s counterproposal tonight showed little movement from the union’s initial demands submitted Aug. 3,” it said in a statement. “The union made clear that unless we agreed to its unsustainable terms, it plans a work stoppage at 11:59 p.m. eastern.”

In Toledo, as the clock ticked down to midnight, a roar began to pour from the open doors of Toledo Jeep Assembly. Outside the plant, UAW members from nearby Local 1435, a Stellantis parts plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, waited to join their brothers and sisters on the picket line.

Then cars and trucks began pouring from the plant, honking their horns in solidarity as a burn barrel blazed away with picket signs at the ready on the ground nearby.

Bridgette Meilink, of Toledo, who has worked at Toledo Jeep Assembly for 10 years on the Wrangler line, now finds herself not just on strike, but a strike captain for UAW Local 12 outside the plant less than an hour after walking off her job.

“There was a lot of anticipation to see what he (Fain) was going to say at 10,” when the Jeep plant was down for lunch, said Meilink, who had worked as a team leader in the body shop portion of the Wrangler line. “Then once we saw for sure, just everybody was excited about the build up.”

Meilink said she’s been preparing for a potential strike for a while, knowing that it was a possibility.

“We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to get fair wages, good working conditions, and to try to get back a little bit of what we lost in 2008,” she said below the captain’s hat she had brought from home for the occasion, and while holding a blue strike sign in her right hand.

Stellantis in ‘contingency mode’

Jeep’s parent company Stellantis released a statement after the strike began: “We are extremely disappointed by the UAW leadership’s refusal to engage in a responsible manner to reach a fair agreement in the best interest of our employees, their families and our customers. We immediately put the Company in contingency mode and will take all the appropriate structural decisions to protect our North American operations and the Company.”

The UAW will target Ford’s Michigan Assembly, top left, GM’s Wentzville Assembly, bottom left, and Jeep’s Toledo Assembly Complex.

Under the leadership of Fain, who won election in March in part by promising to take a harder line against employers than his predecessors, the UAW largely has held firm to the “audacious” demands it laid out in early August. It budged slightly in recent days on its initial demand for wage increases totaling 40 percent.

The strike will last at least into the weekend. Fain has said the union will not bargain at all on Friday and is planning a rally with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., outside the UAW-Ford joint training center in downtown Detroit in the afternoon.

Picketing UAW members become eligible for $500-a-week payments from the union’s $825 million strike fund on the eighth day of a walkout.

Larry Vellequette contributed to this report.

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