The United Auto Workers union is expanding its week-long strike to include more General Motors and Stellantis workplaces, while sparing Ford, which says it has significantly improved its offerings to workers.
Union President Shawn Fain said Friday morning that the strike would expand to 38 parts distribution centers in nine U.S. states.
Strikers are currently on strike at three auto assembly plants, representing about 13,000 of the Detroit automaker’s 146,000 UAW members. While Ford was spared from the latest escalation, workers at its assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, will remain on strike, as will workers at GM’s plant in Wentzville, Missouri, and the Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio.
Fain also called on Joe Biden to join the picket line, an invitation the US president appeared to accept late Friday. Biden confirmed he would visit Michigan next week and “stand in solidarity with the men and women of the UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they have created.”
“It’s time for a win-win agreement that ensures American auto manufacturing thrives with good-paying UAW jobs,” the president said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
Biden often says he is the most pro-union president in recent memory, but if he chooses to side with workers, he risks alienating some voters in the politically important Midwestern states of Michigan and Ohio.
Fain said earlier this week that the strike would be extended without “significant progress” at the negotiating table. It’s the first time the union has hit all three automakers at the same time, and the UAW is picking specific targets rather than defecting en masse.
“We want to recognize that Ford has demonstrated that they are serious about reaching an agreement,” he said. “It’s a different story with GM and Stellantis.”
“We will stop parts distribution until these two companies come to their senses,” he added.
The decision to target parts centers rather than other vehicle assembly plants will make it more difficult for GM and Stellantis to repair and service vehicles already sold to customers. The UAW believes this move will increase public and financial pressure on management.
Stellantis criticized the UAW, pointing to a Detroit News report that included private messages from the union’s communications director in which he said the union could harm the companies’ reputations and operations and “burden them for months.”
“We wonder whether the union leadership ever had an interest in reaching an agreement in a timely manner,” said the car manufacturer. “Given the fierce competition in the marketplace, they appear more interested in pursuing their own political agendas than negotiating in the best interests of our employees and the sustainability of our U.S. operations.”
The mood seemed optimistic among workers at a Stellantis parts distribution center in Romulus, Michigan, who were on strike. Music played at the gate while local leaders set up a tent and offered snacks. Come tomorrow, said Operations Captain Anthony Steele, “we’ll probably have a barbecue.”
Workers at the center are striking to get everyone on a consistent pay scale, Steele said, including temporary workers, some of whom have been working at the facility for three years. Additionally, “workers would need a little more money to cover the rising costs of inflation,” he said.
As part of the negotiations, Ford offered to adjust the cost of living again, Fain said, to help workers keep up with inflation. The union acknowledged such adjustments in 2009, when Chrysler, which eventually became part of Stellantis, and GM were in bankruptcy.
“A lot of people said it couldn’t be done, and we just did it,” Fain said.
However, there are still “serious issues that need to be resolved” with Ford, he added.
Ford said it was working “diligently” toward an agreement. Although progress has been made, “we still need to close significant gaps on key economic issues,” the company added.
GM did not immediately respond to the UAW’s actions.
The impact of the first week of work stoppages, which began last Friday, was muted for automakers, in part because of the UAW’s tactics of targeting only certain factories.
GM has produced about 6,300 fewer vehicles since Sept. 15 than it otherwise would have, according to IHS Markit. Ford made about 4,500 fewer vehicles and Stellantis made about 5,900 fewer.
Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner estimates the impact on operating profit will be $82 million at GM, $77 million at Stellantis and $58 million at Ford.
Financial pressure on automakers was “negligible” in the first week, said Chris McNally, auto analyst at Evercore ISI, with only about 10 percent of workers affected.
Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush, said: “Quite simply, no automaker can accept the deal [put] But he added that Ford’s progress would “put pressure on GM and Stellantis.”
Additional reporting by Lauren Fedor in Washington
Source : www.ft.com