The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has initiated a strike against Ford, General Motors (GM), and Stellantis. The goal of the strike is to pressure the carmakers into granting higher pay and making other improvements to the new labor agreements. This strike adds to the existing labor unrest and creates uncertainty in an industry that constitutes 3% of the national economy. The dispute has gained the attention of US President Joe Biden due to its impact in states that hold significant importance in national elections.
The UAW was established in 1935 to represent workers at Ford, GM, and Chrysler (now part of Stellantis). It was a powerful force in US politics after World War Two, when those companies were dominant in the automotive industry and manufacturing jobs in the motor industry were regarded as pathways to the middle class. The UAW currently represents more than 400,000 active workers across various sectors. This is the first strike in the UAW’s history to target all three Detroit-based companies simultaneously.
The strike is currently affecting three factories employing fewer than 13,000 workers. The companies warn of the ripple effects of the shutdowns, including temporary layoffs of hundreds of other staff whose work depends on those factories. While these shutdowns only impact a fraction of production, low inventory levels could lead to higher prices for buyers if the strike continues for an extended period. The UAW demands include a 40% pay increase over four years, days off, and cost-of-living adjustments.
The negotiations have met resistance from the car companies, with GM and Ford expressing concerns over the costs involved in meeting the union’s demands. The car companies are also facing competition from non-unionized companies with lower labor costs, such as Toyota and Tesla. The financial pressure to invest heavily in electric vehicle production is another factor influencing the negotiations. If progress is not made, the UAW has announced plans to expand the strike. The strike’s duration is uncertain, but the UAW has allocated $825 million to support striking workers, enough to last approximately two months with all members participating.
Sources: BBC News, Getty Images