Updated: 11:00 p.m.
The United Auto Workers union said it’s expanding its historic strike against the Big Three automakers to all parts distribution facilities at General Motors and Stellantis across the country — including two sites in the Twin Cities metro area — as it ramps up pressure on the two companies to reach deals on new contracts.
Workers at 38 GM and Stellantis parts distributions centers, spread across 20 states, are poised to walk off the job at 11 p.m. CT Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain said in a Facebook Live address. The sites Fain listed included a GM parts distribution center in Hudson, Wis., and a Stellantis parts distribution center in Plymouth, Minn.
Fain, donning a camouflage UAW-branded shirt during a Facebook Live address, doubled down on the union’s willingness to keep broadening the strikes as negotiations continue.
"“This expansion will also take our fight nationwide. We will be everywhere from California to Massachusetts, from Oregon to Florida,” Fain said. “Across the country, people are going to know that the UAW is ready to stand up for our communities, and ready to stand up against corporate greed.”
However, the union will not immediately broaden its strike against Ford, citing progress with the automaker on key demands including wage tiers and job security provisions. The existing strike at part of a Ford plant in Wayne, Mich., will continue.
Roughly 5,600 workers at GM and Stellantis distribution centers across the country will join the approximately 13,000 employees at three Midwest auto plants who were the first to walk off the job last week, when the union’s contracts with the automakers expired.
This latest expansion will strategically hit GM and Stellantis facilities that supply car parts to dealerships. It also spotlights the two-tier wage system that the UAW is fighting to eliminate, as some workers at these parts distrubution centers have a lower maximum pay rate than workers elsewhere.
Fain’s so-called “stand up” strike strategy is intended to keep Ford, General Motors and Stellantis on their toes with sudden, targeted strikes at strategic locations, rather than having all of the nearly 150,000 UAW auto workers walk off their jobs at once.
Ford is ‘serious about reaching a deal,’ union says
Fain outlined the UAW’s progress with Ford this week on key sticking points. He said Ford has, notably, agreed to reinstate a cost of living adjustment that was suspended in 2009, grant the union the right to strike over plants closures and convert all temporary employees to full-time status.
GM and Stellantis have not budged on those issues so far, Fain said, adding that the union still has outstanding concerns about Ford’s offer, too.
“We still have serious issues to work though — but we do want to recognize that Ford is showing that they’re serious about reaching a deal,” Fain said, explaining the UAW’s decision to refrain from ramping up its strike against Ford. “At GM and Stellantis, it’s a different story.”
The UAW is demanding substantial improvements in the new contract, including a 40 percent wage increase, saying the union accepted significant concessions in 2007, just when the global financial crisis was starting to take shape.
Fain invited President Biden to join workers on the picket line.
Automakers lay off workers
The automakers have responded with temporary layoffs, blaming the supply disruptions caused by the strikes.
General Motors has temporarily laid off most of the approximately 2,000 unionized workers at its Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas as a result of the ongoing UAW strikes. The other two companies have also announced temporary layoffs at a smaller scale.
So far, the companies have failed to present wage offers that the union sees as adequate, though the automakers say they've put generous offers on the table.
The UAW has rejected the companies’ offers so far, saying the automakers can do more after earning record profits in recent years. The union has also cited the big pay earned by CEOs, including GM leader Mary Barra who made nearly $29 million in 2022 — 362 times the median GM employee's paycheck, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
The two sides also remain at odds over other key economic issues, including the restoration of pension and retiree health care and cost of living adjustments — all benefits that the UAW gave up before and during the Great Recession.
“We haven’t had a raise in years, a real raise,” said Gil Ramsey, a Ford employee who’s on strike in Wayne, Mich. “And everything that we gave up when the company was down on the ropes — we haven’t even got that back yet.”
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Collected from Minnesota Public Radio News. View original source here.