UAW Strike Looms Over Big Three Automakers Ahead of Thursday Night Deadline

The UAW plans to keep automakers guessing as to which facilities will walk out, unless its demands are met.
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The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has been locked in difficult negotiations with America’s Big Three for some time. The automakers have thus far declined to meet the union’s demands for pay increases and improved conditions for workers. As the union’s deadline approaches, it has announced plans for an unprecedented strike against all members of the Big Three at the same time.

The UAW released a video across social media on Wednesday evening, laying out plans for the “Stand-Up Strike.” The video lays out plans for a strike covering Ford, GM, and Stellantis, that “starts small and builds over time.” The UAW intends to ask various local unions to walk out on strike over time, aiming to keep the companies in the dark as to which unions will walk out, and when. The name of the effort references the wide-ranging “Sit-Down Strikes” of 1937, a landmark event that won better pay and conditions for workers, and helped catalyze the unionization of America’s auto industry.

The announcement video does not outline specific plans for strike action, merely citing the deadline of 11:59 p.m. on September 14 that the UAW has outlined previously. As covered by ABC News, UAW President Shawn Fain stated plans to announce which local unions will be initially asked to strike via a Facebook Live broadcast at 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday night. If the strikes go ahead, it will be an unprecedented move from the UAW. “For the first time in our history, we may strike all three of the Big Three at once,” said Fain.

Ultimately, Fain says the union’s desire is not to strike. “Our goal is to bargain a fair contract,” he says. Regardless, he notes that the union is willing to do what it takes to achieve a fair outcome for workers. Key to the union’s demands are greater pay rises and a reduction to ramp-up periods for new workers to reach full rates of pay.

In an FAQ on the strike published online, the union notes that it retains the option to call for a strike at every UAW facility across the Big Three. The UAW highlights the desire to maintain flexibility to escalate the strike as needed if automakers don’t negotiate an appropriate contract. In the meantime, UAW members at facilities that aren’t striking will continue to work under expired agreements, unless called on to join the strike action.

Meanwhile, in a live stream broadcast on YouTube, Fain laid out the current state of affairs regarding the union’s bargaining efforts. The video notes the frustrated negotiation process thus far, with the union head suggesting a reluctance from automakers to come to the bargaining table. Fain highlights the union’s readiness to take action, backed by a “pissed-off” workforce. “We’ve repeatedly told the companies from day one—September 14 is a deadline, not a reference point,” stated Fain, adding “We will not allow the Big Three to continue dragging out negotiations for months.”

The UAW leader also highlighted the billions of dollars of profits made by the Big Three over the past decade, seldom little of which has reached workers, according to the union. “The Big Three can afford to immediately give us our fair share,” stated the UAW leader, adding “If they choose not to, then they are choosing to strike themselves, and we are not afraid to take action.”

With the Thursday night deadline rapidly approaching, it remains to be seen whether Ford, GM, and Stellantis will be able to head off strike action at the pass. Escalating strike action could prove a tool to speed contract negotiations, particularly if surprise shutdowns at additional facilities frustrate supply chains. Shareholders and company executives will be hoping that the disruption is minimal to shore up bonuses and bottom lines. Ultimately, the Stand-Up Strikes could be a major thorn in the side for America’s Big Three if an agreement isn’t reached soon.

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