Up to 146,000 United Auto Workers could strike starting this week if the Big Three auto companies don't reach a new union contract agreement by 11:59 p.m. Sept. 14.
UAW Union President Shawn Fain has repeated his mantra “record profits mean record contracts.” He says Big Three executives at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis have received hefty pay raises while inflation has eaten away at UAW workers’ paychecks.
The union is seeking double-digit pay raises, cost of living adjustment restoration, eliminating tiers on wages and benefits, defined benefit pensions for everyone and re-establishing retiree medical benefits.
“General Motors CEO Mary Barra made $29 million last year, yet a newly-hired factory worker factory at Lordstown, OH, is making $16.50 an hour,” Fain said in a Facebook live event in July.
Fain wants UAW members to receive a 40% raise over four years and a 32-hour workweek with the same wage as a five-day workweek.
"Our members are working 60, 70, even 80 hours a week just to make ends meet," Fain said. "That's not a living. That's barely surviving, and it needs to stop.”
The UAW president said the Big Three have closed 65 auto plants over 20 years, and said workers have been left out of the profits made during the pandemic. Ford Motor Company in the second quarter reported its net income nearly tripled from a year ago to $1.9 billion.
For the full year, Ford expects adjusted earnings before interest and taxes of $11 billion to $12 billion. However, Ford expects to lose more than $4 billion on its EV transition.
An analysis from the Anderson Economic Group says a 10-day walkout on this scale could lead to $5 billion in lost economic activity for the auto industry.
In February, The Center Square reported Ford’s new $3.5 billion Blue Oval electric vehicle battery factory plant, which received about $2 billion of taxpayer subsidies, will pay an average wage of $45,136. Fain says workers need their “fair share.”
“No Ford worker should be stuck in a lower-tier job, without the good pay and pension that generations of autoworkers fought for,” Fain said in a statement. “No Ford worker should wonder if the Blue Oval battery plants opening across the country will start a race to the bottom that undermines standards for all autoworkers. Seeing the billions that Ford is making, we know they can and must make things right for our workers and our communities.”
AEG Principal and CEO Patrick Anderson said Michigan saw a single-quarter recession after 48,000 UAW workers went on strike against GM in 2019 for 40 days.
The UAW has about 146,000 members across Ford, GM and Stellantis, and the union has a roughly $825 million strike fund.
"In 2023, there is the potential that a strike could involve more manufacturers, more workers and more plants," Anderson said in the report. “If that happens, even a short strike would impact economies throughout Michigan and across the nation."