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United Auto Workers Widens Job Action Against Ford and General Motors

The United Automobile Workers (UAW) union has escalated its strike against Ford Motor and General Motors by extending it to two additional car assembly plants. The UAW stated that the companies have not made enough progress in meeting their demands for higher pay and benefits. This comes after strikes began on September 15 at three plants owned by G.M., Ford, and Stellantis. However, the UAW decided not to expand the strike against Stellantis due to progress in negotiations. Two plants, a Ford plant in Chicago and a G.M. factory in Lansing, Mich., will be affected by the expanded strike.

The UAW’s president, Shawn Fain, expressed his frustration with the lack of progress in a live-streamed video, stating that Ford and G.M. have refused to make significant advances at the bargaining table. The UAW is seeking a substantial wage increase and began negotiations by demanding a 40 percent raise. The companies have offered approximately 20 percent over four years. Some agreements have been reached on other demands, including cost-of-living adjustments and the right to strike if plants are closed.

The strike affects a significant number of UAW members, including over 25,000 workers from the three companies. Ford’s Chicago plant employs about 4,600 UAW members, and G.M.’s Lansing plant has 2,300 union workers. Last week, strikes occurred at 38 spare-parts distribution centers owned by G.M. and Stellantis. The UAW did not expand the strike at Ford because progress was made in negotiations with the company.

Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan, believes that the UAW is skillfully negotiating with the car companies. However, he also warns that if the companies give in to most of the union’s demands, they may struggle to compete in the electric vehicle market dominated by nonunion automaker Tesla. Gordon suggests that although the UAW may experience initial gains, job losses may occur if the companies can’t compete.

Negotiations are ongoing between the parties, and progress has been made in discussions with Stellantis. However, there are still gaps that need to be addressed. Tensions on the picket lines have escalated during the strike, with some minor injuries reported and confrontations occurring at picket lines in various locations.

The UAW is also concerned about the transition to electric vehicles potentially leading to lower wages and reduced unionized workforce. They aim to include workers at battery factories owned by automakers in their national contracts with the UAW, citing dangerous working conditions and lower pay at these factories. However, the automakers argue that most battery plants are joint ventures with foreign companies and cannot be included in their national contracts.

The strike strategy of targeting specific locations while spreading the walkouts to all three automakers is a departure from the UAW’s conventional approach. This strategy aims to keep the companies uncertain about which parts of their operations will be affected, potentially improving the UAW’s negotiating position. The strike has already impacted the production of profitable vehicles, but its limited scope minimizes the damage to suppliers, local businesses, and the national economy.

Expanding the strike also increases the financial burden on the union, as they are paying striking workers from their strike fund. The UAW will continue to negotiate in hopes of reaching a favorable agreement.

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