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UAW threatens to expand strike as deadline approaches

21 September, 2023IndustriALL affiliate, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is entering its sixth day of strike, and UAW President Shawn Fain has issued a stern warning: unless Ford, General Motors, or Stellantis, collectively known as the Big Three, make substantial progress towards a fair agreement by Friday 22 September, the strike will escalate.

Shawn Fain emphasized that additional factories would join the ongoing strike at three plants if substantial headway isn't made in negotiations by noon on Friday.

“We are not going to keep waiting around forever while they drag this out and we are not messing around. I have been clear with the Big Three every step of the way and I’m going to be crystal clear again. If we don’t make serious progress by midday on Friday, more locals will be called on to Stand Up and join the strike. That will mark more than a week since our first members walked out, and it will mark more than a week of the Big Three failing to make progress in negotiations toward reaching a deal that does right by our members,”

said Fain.

On 15 September, Senator Bernie Sanders addressed workers in Detroit, urging working people nationwide to stand in solidarity with the ongoing strike. He sharply criticized the Big Three, who are likely to collect profits that will exceed $30 billion this year, according to forecasts.

“It is time for you to end your greed and it is time for you to treat your employees with the respect and dignity that they deserve. It is time to sit down and negotiate a fair contract. What we are seeing in the automobile industry is what we are seeing all over this economy. Greed on top, suffering on the part of the working class and people are tired of it,”

said Sen. Sanders.

The actions go beyond just UAW members at the Big Three. Autoworkers throughout the supply chain, spanning the nation, have also embarked on strikes. For instance, in Alabama, ZF workers who manufacture parts for Mercedes have rejected the company's latest contract proposal and are holding out for more favorable terms. Meanwhile, over 1,000 employees at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan are engaged in a strike, seeking a new contract addressing various concerns, including job outsourcing, wage disparities, and unfair labor practices.

More workers are waiting to be called to join the Stand Up Strike, which is a new approach to striking. Instead of striking at all plants at the same time, selected locals have been called on to stand up and strike. If the automakers fail to make progress in negotiations and bargain in good faith going forward, more locals will be called to join the strike. The union is demanding a decent standard of living, wages that grow with inflation, dignified retirement, worker protection and fighting against plant closures.

A key demand from the UAW is also an end to the two-tier wage system in the automotive industry. Currently, tier-two workers earn significantly lower hourly wages and receive fewer benefits compared to top-tier workers, leading to a division among union members. This system also results in prolonged periods for tier-two employees to reach top wages. The UAW argues that ending this tiered workforce is a top priority in their negotiations with the Big Three automakers to create greater wage equality and unity among their members.

"IndustriALL stands firmly behind UAW’s fight for a fair standard of living and wage increases that mirror the record-breaking profits these companies have amassed in recent years. It’s time for Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis to actively collaborate with the union and engage in negotiations in good faith. The workers, including those affected by the unjust two-tier wage system, play an instrumental role in the prosperity of these companies, and it is only just that they receive their rightful portion of it,"

said Atle Høie IndustriALL general secretary.