The United Auto Workers walked off the job Thursday night after failing to come to an agreement with the Big 3 car companies, joining a wave of high-profile labor action across the country.
President Biden weighed in on the strike Friday, saying that while Ford, General Motors and Stellantis had made “significant offers, he believed that “they should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW." Biden urged the two sides to continue talking and said he had dispatched acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior adviser Gene Sperling to Detroit to assist in the negotiations.
“Auto companies have seen record profits, including in the last few years, because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifices of UAW workers,” Biden said. “But those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers.”
The UAW was unable to agree to a contract and is using a targeted “stand up” strike, with 13,000 workers walking off the line at select plants and the potential to expand to other factories. Citing industry profits, the union is pushing for a raise in wages and to reclaim benefits lost in the negotiations that followed the Great Recession of the late 2000s. GM CEO Mary Barra attempted to defend her $30 million pay package during an interview with CNN, saying it was tied to company performance.
“The Big Three can afford to give us our fair share,” UAW President Shawn Fain told workers Wednesday. “If they choose not to, they're choosing to strike themselves. We are not afraid to take action."
Biden has touted himself as the most pro-labor president in history, but has yet to be endorsed by the UAW for his 2024 reelection bid over concerns about funding for electric vehicle production going to “right to work” states, which make unionizing more difficult. The president faced union blowback last year for undercutting striking railroad workers.
Recent Gallup polling found 67% support for unions overall, down from a high of 71% last year but still above the recent average. That same poll, taken last month, found that 75% of Americans sided with the UAW in the labor dispute, versus only 19% who sided with the Big 3.
Earlier this summer, UPS averted what would have been a historically large strike by more than 300,000 drivers and warehouse employees represented by the Teamsters union that would have crippled the U.S. economy, agreeing to higher wages and protections for workers like air conditioning in delivery trucks. Additionally, an agreement between the country’s largest train manufacturer and Pennsylvania workers was struck last month, ending a two-month walkout.
Even with those agreements, the UAW is not alone in their labor action.
Read more: Auto worker strike explained: the pay gap, the talks and what Biden is doing, from The Guardian
Read more: Biden says striking UAW workers deserve 'fair share' of record automaker profits, from ABC News
The Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA
The entertainment industry has been shut down for weeks, with the writers going on strike in May and the actors following them in July, marking the first time both unions have been striking at the same time in over half a century. The demands of the unions are centered around residual payments from streaming services and concerns over studios and streaming companies using artificial intelligence to replace human writers and actors.
Last month, Deadline reported internal strife among studio heads, all of whom recently hired a crisis PR firm. Thousands of actors and writers marched through Los Angeles on Wednesday for a rally in front of Paramount Studios.
“I know that this strike is not easy,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher to the assembled demonstrators. “In fact, it's hard. It's very hard. And with the passing of time it's going to even get harder, but the reason why we had the largest strike authorization in our union history is because we stand at an inflection point.”
The sides are expected to return to the negotiating table next week. Earlier this week, visual effects artists at Marvel Studios voted unanimously to unionize, organizing one of the few areas of Hollywood labor not already represented by a union. Workers had documented complaints about being taken advantage of for long hours and short wages.
Read more: Talks Between WGA and AMPTP Are Expected to Resume Next Week, from IndieWire
Read more: American manufacturing is coming back. So are strikes, from FreightWaves
Hotel workers and city employees
The entertainment industry isn’t the only one affected by labor action in Los Angeles this summer, as thousands of hotel workers have been staging rolling walkouts since their contract expired at the end of June. Those striking include housekeepers, front-desk workers and cooks, who’ve urged boycotts of struck hotels. Last month, the union claimed that workers were being roughed up by hotel security as guests complained about noise from the picket lines.
Additionally, 11,000 municipal workers in Los Angeles launched a 24-hour strike in August to protest what they called bad-faith negotiating by the city. SEIU Local 721’s contract was agreed to last year and runs through the end of 2023, but workers say the city has not considered hundreds of proposals as was promised. City mechanics, sanitation workers, lifeguards, traffic officers and airport personnel were among those who walked off the job.