The strike of the US auto workers union expanded against two of Detroit’s “Big Three” on Friday (September 22), as they invited President Joe Biden to extend support to workers on the picket line.
The strike of all 38 US parts and distribution centres at Stellantis and General Motors was announced by UAW President Shawn Fain, as the negotiations remain stalled.
The strike was not expanded by Fain at Ford, where significant gaps are still there, which has offered important concessions after the strike started a week ago.
“As we have said for weeks, we’re not going to wait around forever for fair contracts at the Big Three,” said Fain, in a press briefing.
“We invite and encourage anyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line, from friends and family all the way up to the president of the United States,” stated Fain, as he extended an invitation which will further entangle the White House into a more politically treacherous issue.
“The way you can help is to build our movement and show the companies that the public stands with us,” he added.
Fain said that earlier proposals were improved by Ford by reinstating a cost-of-living measure, which was suspended in 2009. An enhanced profit-sharing system was also offered by Ford and the union was granted the right to strike over plant closures.
“We’re not done at Ford,” Fain stated. However, “we do recognise that Ford is serious about reaching a deal. At GM and Stellantis, it’s a different story,” he said.
The strategy of UAW of slowly expanding its action is part of what Fain has called the “stand-up strike” — an allusion to the landmark “sitdown” strike of UAW held in the 1930s which is aimed at maximising the bargaining leverage of the union because of the risk of additional plants to be taken down.
UAW adopts aggressive posture
Under the leadership of Fain, an aggressive posture has been adopted by the UAW in the talks as the companies have been accused of “corporate greed” and lambasting Big Three CEO salaries of more than $20 million each.
Fain has further shelved the convention of UAW of selecting one of the three companies as a strike target and not launching three independent series of talks which have kept the companies off guard.
The UAW has been seeking a hike of 40 per cent in the wage which will match the average increases by CEOs in the last four years.
Their other key demands include the elimination of various worker pay and benefit “tiers”, the re-establishment of retiree medical benefits, a cost-of-living adjustment, and a pension for junior employees. So far, the one-week-old strike had limited effect on company profits, while new pressures were introduced on auto parts suppliers to the Big Three. However, the expanded strike will now pose new challenges for General Motors and Stellantis.