The United Auto Workers and Detroit’s Big Three carmakers continued talks in hopes of ending a strike — now in its fourth day — in efforts to prevent limited walkout from spreading.
Stellantis said it resumed negotiations with the union Monday and described the talks as “constructive.” A spokesman for GM said representatives of the company and the UAW also were continuing to negotiate.
However, UAW President Shawn Fain said in an interview on NPR, “We have a long way to go,” and if the companies don’t respond to the union’s demands, “then we will escalate action.”
So far the strike is limited to about 13,000 workers at three factories — one each at GM, Ford and Stellantis, the successor to Fiat Chrysler. However, the union’s strategy hinges on its ability to escalate the strike quickly, and carmakers are warning of potential layoffs as the limited strike reduces the amount of material needed at plants remaining open.
GM said Monday that about 2,000 workers at their Kansas City assembly plant are represented by the UAW. They are “expected to be idled as soon as early this week” because of a shortage of supplies which normally come from a GM plant near St. Louis, where workers walked off the job last Friday.
Workers at the General Motors Kansas City Plant build the Chevrolet Malibu and the Cadillac XT4.
The strike might also start to impact suppliers and their employees. CIE Newcor told Michigan officials that there could be a one-month closure of four plants in that state starting Oct. 2; the stoppage could idle nearly 300 workers.
Showing concern of the strike’s potential economic and political fallout, the Biden Administration stepped up its response to the developing situation.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is hoping for a quick resolution, while adding that is too soon to gauge the strike’s impact. “It’s premature to be making forecasts about what it means for the economy. It would depend on how long the strike lasts and who would be affected by it,” she said on CNBC.
Secretary Yellen theorized that labor activism this year — strikes by Hollywood writers and screen actors, by workers at about 150 Starbucks locations and narrowly averted walkouts at United Parcel Service and West Coast ports — were driven by a strong labor market and a high demand for workers.
President Joe Biden has backed the UAW in brief public comments, saying that automakers have not fairly shared record profits with workers.
On Monday, an anonymous administration official stated that acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior aide Gene Sperling will not serve as mediators (they won’t be at the bargaining table) but are headed to Detroit “to help support the negotiations in any way the parties feel is constructive.” The official was not authorized to reveal the content of private negotiations.
Fain said the Biden administration won’t broker a deal. “This is our battle. Our members are out there manning the picket lines,” he said Monday on MSNBC. “This battle is not about the president, it’s not about the former president.”
The UAW seeks wage increases of 36% over a four year period, while Automakers have offered only 20%. The union is also insisting on other changes– most notably a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay.
Instead of launching an all-out strike of its 146,000 members, the union instead targeted three factories with a plan that could stretch the union’s $825 million strike fund a bit further: workers walked out of GM’s Wentzville, Missouri facility, a Ford plant near Detroit, Michigan, and a Stellantis factory in Toledo, Ohio, where Jeeps are built.
The UAW holds out the possibility of escalating the strike if the union decides that the pace of bargaining is too slow. Last Friday, Fain indicated more factories could be targeted: “It could be in a day, it could be in a week.”
Associated Press writer David Koenig was the author of the unedited original article.