The United Auto Workers are prepared to strike against the nation’s largest auto makers, the head of the union said Tuesday.
The UAW, which represents 150,000 hourly workers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, will begin talks with the big three Detroit automakers Thursday to renegotiate a contract that is set to expire in two months.
“The Big Three is our strike target. Whether or not there’s a strike, it’s up to Ford, General Motors and Stellantis,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a Facebook speech to UAW members on Tuesday, adding that the three companies have made $750 billion in profits over the past decade and “can afford to make things right for our members.”
The UAW’s current contract with the three Detroit-based auto makers has been in place four years and expires September 14. In June, UAW leaders said they want stronger job protections against plants closing, higher wages, an end to tiered wages that pay some employees less for doing the same job and cost-of-living increases.
The union is set to negotiate with each Detroit-based auto maker separately, beginning with Stellantis on Thursday, Ford on Friday and General Motors next Tuesday.
The negotiations “should be about collaboration not concessions — creative ideas, not confrontation,” Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley said in a Detroit Free Press opinion piece addressing the upcoming contract talks. “We have important work to do together with the UAW.”
Farley said Ford has given its UAW employees wage increases and annual inflation bonuses exceeding the cost-of-living adjustments UAW is requesting. Eighty percent of Ford’s UAW employees make the top wage of $32 hourly, he said.
But Fain wants wages at electric vehicle battery plants to exceed that $32 cap since more UAW members will be transitioned into EV factories as the industry transitions away from gas-powered vehicles.
UAW employees “give their all, every day, and we absolutely consider their collective manufacturing expertise to be a competitive advantage for GM, which is why we believe our manufacturing employees should be recognized and rewarded and should share in the company’s success,” General Motors President Mark Reuss wrote in an opinion piece in the Detroit Free Press Wednesday.
Reuss said GM compensates UAW members with “a world-class healthcare plan” and bonus payments through a profit-sharing program.
"We’re committed to offering competitive packages that can accommodate the evolving needs of our manufacturing teams and recognize their contributions to the company’s current and future success,” Reuss said, adding that he had met with Fain and other UAW leaders in June.
The impending UAW negotiations come as labor groups around the country engage in tense negotiations over pay and benefits.
The Hollywood actors union, SAG-AFTRA, is in its final hours of negotiations before a possible strike that could begin Wednesday night at 11:59 p.m. The Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May 2.
The Teamsters have overwhelmingly voted to strike against UPS on August 1 if their demands for better pay aren’t met before then. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union who work at the country’s 29 West Coast ports are currently in the process of ratifying a hard-won contract that was resolved with the help of acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su last month.
“What we’re seeing is unions organizing and workers standing up in industries and workplaces across the country. As to UAW, we’re very, very early in that process,” Su said Wednesday during a talk about her successful contract negotiation with the ILWU and whether she would be involved with the UAW deal.
“The parties are going to come to the table,” she said. “They’re going to negotiate. Everyone is well aware of what is at stake, and they’re going to need to go through their process.”