The United Auto Workers strike expanded Friday afternoon to a Ford Motor assembly plant in Chicago and a General Motors plant in Delta Township, Mich., bringing the total number of striking auto workers to about 25,000.
UAW president Shawn Fain said in a webcast to union members Friday that he was not calling for any additional strikes at Stellantis facilities at this time because the company had “made significant progress” on some UAW demands, including cost-of-living adjustments. Fain said he was “excited about this momentum at Stellantis.”
The UAW strike is now spread out at 43 facilities in 21 states.
During his address to members, Fain cited the historic move by President Joe Biden to picket with the UAW this week. “The most powerful man in the world showed up for one reason only: because our solidarity is the most powerful force in the world,” he said.
Fain, as he has time and time again, called the union’s cause “righteous” and said he expected a long fight ahead, echoing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous quote: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
At Ford’s Chicago Assembly, where employees make the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, the Friday strike affected about 4,600 UAW members. At GM’s Lansing Delta Assembly, where employees produce the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave, about 2,300 members were called to walk out, though Fain asked Lansing regional stamping employees at that plant to continue working.
In a news conference Friday, Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley said his company and the union are close to an agreement on wages and benefits but accused the UAW of “holding the deal hostage” over the possible unionization of four battery plants that he said haven’t even been built yet. Those include three joint-venture plants and the Marshall, Mich., plant on which Ford has paused work this week, pending negotiations with the union.
“None of our workers today are going to lose their jobs due to battery plants during this contract period,” Farley said, adding that the outcome of negotiations with the union will help determine “how big or how small” the plant will be.
The UAW pushed back on Ford’s characterization of negotiations. The union and the company remain far apart on key issues, including “core economic proposals like retirement security and post-retirement healthcare, as well as job security in this EV transition,” Fain said in a statement in response to Ford’s comments.
Fain’s statement also included the following: “I don’t know why Jim Farley is lying about the state of negotiations. It could be because he failed to show up for bargaining this week, as he has for most of the past 10 weeks. If he were there, he’d know we gave Ford a comprehensive proposal on Monday and still haven’t heard back.” Ford declined to comment on Fain’s latest remarks.
A GM spokesperson on Friday passed along what Gerald Johnson, the company’s executive vice president for global manufacturing, told employees after the UAW’s announcement: “We still have not received a comprehensive counteroffer from UAW leadership to our latest proposal made on September 21. Calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress.”
Friday night, GM CEO Mary Barra released a statement in which she criticized what she called Fain’s theatrics and questioned his intention on reaching an agreement. “Serious bargaining happens at the table, not in public, with two parties who are willing to roll up their sleeves to get a deal done.” Barra said. “The UAW is pitting the companies against one another, but it’s a strategy that ultimately only helps the non-union competition.”
As for Stellantis, spokesperson Jodi Tinson said: “We have made progress in our discussions, but gaps remain. We are committed to continue working through these issues in an expeditious manner to reach a fair and responsible agreement that gets everyone back to work as soon as possible.”
The UAW strike began two weeks ago at one GM
plant each, affecting almost 13,000 workers. Last Friday, the strike spread to 38 GM and Stellantis parts-distribution centers across the country, affecting more than 5,600 additional workers.
The UAW did not expand its strike to any Ford facilities last week, with Fain at the time citing “real progress” on negotiations with the company. But on Friday, he said there was a lack of “meaningful progress” from Ford and GM.
Among the union’s demands are wage increases, the elimination of tiers and the restoration of pensions.