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This UAW Strike Is Unlike Anything We’ve Seen Before
United Auto Workers launch a historic strike against all Big Three companies.
For the first time in its history, the United Auto Workers are striking at all of the Big Three automakers — Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, the parent company for Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge.
UAW president Shawn Fain tapped one plant from each company to strike after the current contract expired at 11:59 pm on Thursday: GM’s Wentzville Assembly in Missouri, Stellantis’ Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio, and Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan.
It’s part of a new strategy the UAW has dubbed the “Stand Up” strike. Rather than striking all plants at the same time, the union is picking and choosing where to have workers walk off the job depending on how negotiations are unfolding.
“It's going to rely on discipline, organization, and creativity,” UAW President Shawn Fain said of the strategy during a Wednesday evening livestream with members.
Roughly 12,700 workers are now on strike. As long as workers are in good standing and participate in the strike, they’ll receive $500 per week from the union’s $825 million strike fund.
The remaining members who haven’t been called to strike will work, for the time being, under an expired contract. Automakers have a legal obligation to maintain the status quo in this situation, meaning they can’t change members’ wages or working conditions.
The UAW describes this strategy as “our generation’s answer to the movement that built our union, the Sit-Down Strikes of 1937.” While UAW leaders have stressed that a full nationwide strike is still a possibility, this strategy “keeps the companies guessing.” It gives the union power to increase economic pressure over time, while protecting against exhausting the strike fund too early in the event of a protracted battle.
In another divergence from past years, Fain and national negotiators are taking a day-long break from negotiations to join members at a rally in Detroit Friday. They are slated to return to the negotiating table Saturday.
The top issues remaining include restoring the wages and benefits workers enjoyed before the auto industry collapse of 2008, like cost-of-living adjustments, pensions, and healthcare for retirees. There’s also the issue of “temporary” workers who do the same work as full-time employees for roughly half the pay and fewer benefits.
We spoke to temp workers at the Toledo Assembly Complex — one of the plants where workers are now on strike — two weeks ago about their grueling hours and long work weeks. Watch here:
There has been some movement at the table in recent days. Ford’s current offer plans to convert all current temp workers to full-time status, while Stellantis’s offer raised the starting wage for temp workers to $20/hour. Still, Stellantis has failed to provide any path to full-time status—even as the company announced yet another round of stock buybacks this week worth up to 500 million euros.
After the passage of the strike deadline Thursday, Big Three executives accused the UAW of unreasonable demands and bad-faith negotiations. But the UAW has made it clear that its members are willing to strike until they get the deal they deserve.
“At the end of the day, the goal here is to get the best contract we can for our members and that's where we're headed,” Fain said.
Ongoing strike coverage
Check out our Twitter for around-the-clock strike updates.
We’ve had cameras at the UAW strike locations since last night and will continue posting clips and other news through the weekend.
Biden made White House remarks on the strike today, including a clear call for the Big 3 to improve their offer to workers
On NBC News, Trump was asked ‘Whose side are you on?’ regarding the strike and wouldn’t give a clear answer, then attacked UAW’s leadership
GM CEO Mary Barra was pressed by CNN about her lucrative pay package