WASHINGTON: An additional 7,000 members of the largest US automobile workers' union have joined an ongoing major strike against the top three car manufacturers in Detroit.
Shawn Fain, President of the United Auto Workers, has called upon workers at Ford and General Motors (GM) plants in Chicago and Michigan to participate in the historic joint strike against the "Big Three" Detroit automakers, which includes Ford, GM, and Chrysler producer Stellantis. The strike aims to secure higher wages and other improvements for the workforce.
Fain's call to action was live-streamed on YouTube, urging workers at Ford's Chicago assembly plant and GM's Lansing Delta Township plant to stand up and join the strike. He emphasized the importance of these workers as the next wave of support in their fight for better employment contracts.
The strike officially commenced as planned at noon Eastern time (1600 GMT) as reported by a UAW official. The union has put forth a demand for a substantial 40 percent pay increase over the next four-year contract, whereas the three automakers have offered raises averaging around 20 percent. Additionally, negotiations have been ongoing regarding the representation of workers at battery plants planned by Ford, which the auto giant has resisted.
The UAW strategically employed this targeted strike, which initiated on September 15, as a bargaining chip to intensify pressure on the three auto manufacturers to reach a mutually agreeable settlement. With Friday's industrial action, the number of UAW members on strike in 21 states across the country has surpassed 25,000 workers, accounting for approximately 17 percent of the union's membership.
Ford's President, Jim Farley, who had remained relatively silent on the issue, voiced strong opposition to Fain's negotiation tactics on Friday. Farley believed that a compromise on pay and benefits could have been achieved but criticized the UAW for holding the deal hostage over battery plants.
Ford recently halted construction at one of its plants and expressed concerns about scaling back its project ambitions. Fain stressed the indispensable role of the UAW in the U.S. auto industry, asserting that they must support Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis for the future's sake.
Fain refrained from calling for additional union members working for Stellantis to join the strike, citing "significant progress" in their ongoing negotiations. Stellantis, in a statement, revealed their intense efforts to find solutions to their employees' primary concerns while maintaining competitiveness in the fiercely competitive market. Although gaps in discussions persist, they remain committed to working through these issues to achieve a fair and responsible agreement.
Beyond its industrial implications, the strike has also assumed political significance, elevating Michigan's status as a pivotal swing state in the 2024 presidential election.
Earlier in the week, President Joe Biden became the first sitting U.S. president to join UAW members on a picket line, advocating for blue-collar votes against potential election rival Donald Trump. Biden emphasized the need for improved conditions, stating that workers deserved more.
Former President Donald Trump also made a visit to Michigan during the week, pledging to protect American labor and advocating for a future that favors domestic employment over foreign labor.
Fain hailed Biden's visit as "historic," emphasizing the potency of solidarity in achieving economic and social justice and underlining the potential of united action in pursuit of these goals.