The clock is ticking. We’re just hours away from the first-ever, simultaneous strikes at Detroit’s Big Three—General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Stellantis—if the United Auto Workers (UAW) and these automakers can’t agree on new contracts by midnight. Shawn Fain, who took over the UAW’s presidency in March, declared there will be no contract extensions. The stage is set for a landmark labor action.
Why now? Why this intensity? UAW members have been feeling like they’re doing the heavy lifting for years without seeing their fair share of the profits. According to UAW, the Big Three collectively made $21 billion in profits in the first half of 2023, and $250 billion in the last decade. Meanwhile, UAW members have seen their wages increase by 6% over the past four years.
Fain is switching up the playbook, putting forth demands that cover a 40% wage increase, reinstating pensions, cost of living adjustments, and much more. Ford offered a counter proposal in early September but both sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Fain declared, “We’ve told all three of the companies up front, before this started, we weren’t going to do things the way we’ve always done them; that Sept. 14 is a deadline, not a reference point,” Fain said last week on CNBC. “… They chose to follow the same path they have in the past, which is delay, delay, delay.”
Potential Scope of the Strike
146,000 autoworkers across the Big Three are represented by the UAW, and 97% of them have voted to authorize a strike.
At 10 p.m. Eastern time, Fain will announce which plants will be the starting points for these strikes. If they happen, these actions will touch the lives of thousands of families and ripple across the American economy.
During the strike, the UAW’s strike fund—standing at about $825 million—will provide workers on the picket line with $500 per week. While it’s a pay cut for most, it’s more than what was offered during the 2019 GM strike.
These workers are seeking more than just pay raises. They want:
- The elimination of wage tiers.
- Substantial wage increases.
- Restoration of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA).
- Defined benefit pensions for all.
- Re-establishment of retiree medical benefits.
- The right to strike over plant closures.
- The creation of a job bank known as the working family protection program.
- The transition of all temporary workers to permanent employees, with strict limits on the future use of temps.
- More paid time off.
- A significant increase in retiree pay.
Let’s also not forget that this industry is moving towards electric vehicles.
The next few hours could change the landscape of American labor for years to come. What the UAW and Detroit’s Big Three decide—or fail to decide—by midnight tonight will have long-lasting repercussions for the industry and the American workforce at large.
The clock is ticking. And America is watching.