UAW Members Authorize Strikes Against U.S. Big Three Automakers

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Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) are authorizing the union to call a strike against the big three U.S. automakers when their contracts expire on Sept. 14, the Detroit News reported on Friday.

The strike authorization vote by General Motors Co. (GM) workers passed by 96 percent; hourly UAW-represented workers at Ford Motor Co. voted in favor of authorizing strike by 98 percent, while salaried UAW-represented workers voted in favor by 99 percent; and Stellantis NV workers voted in favor of authorizing a strike by 95 percent, the report quoted UAW as saying.

The combined average across Stellantis, GM and Ford was 97 percent in favor of strike authorization.

The UAW’s demands entail a 46-percent wage increase over the next four years, a 32-hour work week for 40 hours’ pay, rolling over all current supplemental employees to full-time, cost-of-living adjustments, defined benefit pensions and retiree health care for all, increases to retiree benefits, the right to strike over plant closures, and more paid time off.

All included, the demands could increase total labor costs, including wages and benefits, to more than 100 dollars per hour per worker. The automakers’ current all-in labor costs are around 65 dollars per hour, compared to 55 dollars at foreign automakers and 45 dollars at Tesla Inc., the local newspaper reported.

During a livestreamed event Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain emphasized that the union leaders’ goal is not to strike, but to secure good contracts for members. Fain reiterated union leaders’ position that they will not agree to contract extensions, and are not selecting a target company on which to model negotiations.

All U.S. Big Three responded the authorization with statements. GM spokesperson Pat Morrissey said GM will continue to work with the UAW and bargain in good faith to ensure a right agreement for team members, customers, suppliers, the community and the business. Ford spokesperson Kelli Felker said Ford looks forward to working with the UAW on creative solutions. Stellantis spokesperson Jodi Tinson said discussions between the company and the union “continue to be constructive and collaborative with a focus on reaching a new agreement that balances the concerns of our 43,000 employees with our vision for the future.”

The Detroit News reported that the vote offers the union the leverage of a threat to halt the automakers’ operations. It is a formality and does not necessarily mean there will be a strike.

A national strike at the U.S. Big Three automakers could represent a total economic loss of 5.6 billion dollars if it lasted 10 days, the local media quoted East Lansing’s Anderson Economic Group, a consulting group.