United Auto Workers Members have walked out at three major auto plants owned by Ford, General Motors and Stellar, throwing the automotive industry into doubt as workers demand higher wages and better working conditions.
At all three automakers, however, the strike strategy at select factories – with the possibility of expanding the strike if necessary – is new for the union.
Economist Patrick Anderson said such a move could have far-reaching consequences for the industry, potentially leading to the closure of more plants than originally thought.
“It’s a dangerous thing to say that I’m just going to hit some plants, because that’s not how the industry works. And if that happens, you’re going to see more of those plants closed,” Anderson said.
While striking workers received $500 per week in strike pay from the UAW, the effects of the extended strike went beyond the assembly line.
Suppliers such as Global Technology, which makes tires for many automakers, are also worried about a major slowdown in business. The strike, which could last more than a few weeks, could force CEO Dale Hadel to lay off some of his 2,000 US workers.
“It’s bad for my business. It’s bad for the economy. It’s bad for my employees because, again, they touch this product every day and their livelihood depends on moving these products,” he said.
The UAW’s first wave targeted plants in Missouri, Ohio, and Michigan, posing a major challenge to Ford, General Motors, and Stellar. Union President Sean Fain joined workers on a picket line outside Ford’s Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, Indiana, saying the strike was about getting “our fair share of economic justice.”
While the UAW is pushing for a wage increase of up to 40%, the automakers are offering half that. In addition, the union is pushing for a four-day work week and the return of pensions for hourly workers, proposals that have not yet been accepted by the companies.
Ford CEO Jim Farley defended the automaker’s position, saying it was simply impossible.
“Their first offer was to pay each of our hourly workers $300,000 to work four days, which would basically put our company out of business,” he said.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra She said her company has made several offers.
“We’ve been on the table since July 18th. We’ve received over 1,000 requests,” Barra told “CBS Mornings” on Friday. “We put four offers on the table.”
“I’m very proud” of the “historic” offer the company tabled Thursday, she said.