The president of the United Auto Workers union called on members to strike at dozens of facilities run by General Motors and Jeep parent company Stellantis on Friday, as the unprecedented work stoppage moved into its second week.
Shawn Fain, the UAW president, told workers in a Facebook Live broadcast that Ford had made good progress in talks for a new four-year deal.
“At GM and Stellantis, it’s a different story,” Fain said.
Given what he considered those companies’ hard line at the bargaining table, the union leader said workers would walk out at GM and Stellantis parts distribution facilities at noon Friday if the union doesn’t reach new agreements by then. The strike expansion would include 38 facilities across 20 states.
Fain also said he was inviting President Joe Biden to walk a picket line.
“We invite and encourage everyone who supports our case to join us on the picket line, from our friends and families all the way up to the president of the United States,” he said.
The decision to hit GM and Stellantis while holding back on Ford shows the flexibility behind the union’s strike strategy. Rather than walk out at all “Big Three” facilities after failing to secure deals, the union chose to strike just one facility for each automaker to start last Friday.
That left room for the union to escalate as needed, and kept the companies guessing which targets would be next.
With Fain’s latest announcement, the UAW is essentially rewarding Ford for coming closer to the union’s demands, while punishing GM and Stellantis for remaining further apart.
The companies know how to make this right. The public is on our side, and members of the UAW are ready to stand up.UAW President Shawn Fain
“As we’ve said for weeks, we’re not going to wait around forever for a fair contract at the Big Three,” Fain said. “The companies know how to make this right. The public is on our side, and members of the UAW are ready to stand up.”
The initial strikes focused on production, with workers walking out at a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan; a GM assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri; and Stellantis’ Jeep assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio. Those facilities remain on strike, the UAW said.
By focusing the next wave of strikes on parts distribution facilities, the union can disrupt the profitable supply of after-sales parts that go to GM and Stellantis dealerships.
Ford said in a statement that it was “working diligently” to reach an agreement that “rewards our workforce.”
“Although we are making progress in some areas, we still have significant gaps to close on the key economic issues,” the company said.
General Motors workers on the picket line in Wentzville, Missouri, at one of the first three facilities of the "Big Three" automakers to be struck.
The union has been pushing all three companies for large double-digit raises, the restoration of cost-of-living increases, the elimination of stratified pay tiers and a clear pathway to full-time employment for temporary workers, among other issues.
Fain said the union had made headway with Ford on cost-of-living increases, the tier system and job security measures. But he accused GM and Stellantis of offering “deficient” cost-of-living proposals and rejecting the union’s demands on temps and job security.
The gains at Ford included the right to strike over plant closures, Fain said.
As HuffPost previously reported, many members are determined to claw back concessions the union made to the companies in previous bargaining rounds, particularly amid the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. Real wages for autoworkers across the country have fallen nearly 20% on average since 2008, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The earlier sacrifices have left many workers emboldened to strike now that the companies are enjoying historically high profits.
“We gave up a lot,” Kenyon Reed, a GM worker, recently told HuffPost of past negotiations. “This one right here, they’ve got to make me whole.”