On Thursday night, the United Auto Workers (UAW) announced strikes at factories for GM, Ford, and Stellantis simultaneously. Never before has the UAW held strikes for all of the Big Three Detroit automakers at once and now all three brands are retaliating with layoffs.
The UAW was been working to get a new labor agreement with the three Detroit automakers before the old one expired at 11:59 PM on Thursday, September 14. However, contract talks failed and the UAW made the decision to strike 13,000 employees, across three different factories, and all three brands. In response, both Ford and GM have announced layoffs for non-striking employees.
Ford laid off 600 workers from its Wayne, Michigan plant and GM said that as many as 2,000 workers could be laid off early next week.
According to Ford, since its manufacturing system is interconnected between all of its plants, when one plant strikes, it affects the others. For example, the employees at its body assembly plant were said to be laid off because the components they assemble require an e-coating that’s typically applied at the plant’s paint department. The paint department employees are among those on strike. GM cited similar inter-connectivity as its reasoning for layoffs.
“It is unfortunate that the UAW leadership’s decision to call a strike at Wentzville Assembly has already had a negative ripple effect, with GM’s Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas and its 2,000 team members expected to be idled as soon as early next week,” GM said in a recent statement, according to the Detroit Free Press.
UAW president Shawn Fain released a statement on Saturday morning, following the layoffs: “Let’s be clear: if the Big Three decide to lay people off who aren’t on strike, that’s them trying to put the squeeze on our members to settle for less. With their record profits, they don’t have to lay off a single employee. In fact, they could double every autoworker’s pay, not raise car prices, and still rake in billions of dollars.”
Fain also said that every worker that’s been laid off will be provided with income. “We’ll organize one day longer than they can, and go the distance to win economic and social justice at the Big Three.”
Since then, the UAW has resumed contract talks with the Big Three. “We had reasonably productive conversations with Ford today,” the UAW told NPR on Saturday.
More employees may strike if demands aren’t met. “We’re prepared to to whatever we have to do,” Fain told CBS’s Face the Nation earlier today. “These companies have made a quarter of a trillion dollars in the last ten years, $21 billion in the last six months alone, and our workers wages and conditions have went backwards.”
Among the UAW’s demands is a 40% wage increase, due to claims that CEO pay increased by as much over the past few years. Stellantis offered a 21% increase but Fain called that a “no-go.”
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