The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has long been engaged in difficult negotiations with the three big American companies. Automakers have so far refused to meet union demands for wage increases and better conditions for workers. As the deadline approached, the union announced plans for an unprecedented strike against all members of the Big Three at once.
The UAW released it a video on social media Wednesday night, outlining plans for the “Stand-Up Strike.” The video lays out plans for a strike involving Ford, GM and Stellantis, which “starts small and builds over time.” The UAW plans to ask various local unions to abandon the strike over time, with the goal of keeping companies in the dark about which unions will leave the strike and when. The initiative’s name refers to 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 the American auto industry.
The announcement video does not outline specific plans for the strike, simply citing the 11:59pm Sept. 14 deadline that the UAW previously outlined. As covered by ABC News, UAW President Shawn Fain said he plans to announce which local unions will initially be invited to strike via a Facebook Live broadcast at 10 p.m. Eastern time Thursday night. If the strikes go forward, it will be an unprecedented move by the UAW. “For the first time in our history, we could hit all three of the Big Three at once,” Fain said.
Ultimately, Fain says the union’s desire is not to strike. “Our goal is to negotiate a fair contract,” he says. Regardless, he notes that the union is willing to do what is necessary to achieve a fair outcome for workers. Fundamental to the union’s demands are greater wage increases and a reduction in work placement periods for new workers to reach full pay.
In an FAQ about the strike posted online, the union notes that it retains the ability to call a strike at every UAW structure in the Big Three. The UAW highlights a desire to maintain flexibility to escalate the strike as needed if automakers do not negotiate an adequate contract. Meanwhile, UAW members at non-striking facilities will continue to work under expired agreements unless called upon to join the strike.
Meanwhile, in a live stream on YouTube, Fain outlined the current state of affairs regarding the union’s bargaining efforts. The video highlights the frustrated negotiation process so far, with the union boss suggesting a reluctance on the part of the automakers to come to the negotiating table. Fain underlines the union’s willingness to act, supported by an “angry” workforce. “We have repeatedly told companies from day one that September 14 is a deadline, not a benchmark,” Fain said, adding “We will not allow the Big Three to continue to drag out negotiations for months.”
The UAW leader also pointed to the billions of dollars in profits made by the Big Three over the past decade, of which rarely, according to the union, only a small portion has reached workers. “The Big Three can afford to give us our fair share immediately,” the UAW leader declared, adding, “If they choose not to, then they choose to strike back themselves, and we are not afraid to act.”
With Thursday night’s deadline fast approaching, it remains to be seen whether Ford, GM and Stellantis will be able to avoid a strike at the pass. Escalating strikes could prove a tool to speed up contract negotiations, particularly if surprise closures of additional facilities frustrate supply chains. Shareholders and company executives hope the disruption will be minimal to sustain bonuses and profits. Ultimately, the Stand-Up Strikes could represent a major thorn in the side of the American Big Three if an agreement is not reached soon.
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