The United Auto Workers and Detroit’s Big Three carmakers have resumed talks. Their discussions seek to end a strike over pay and benefits now in its fifth day. But so far, there’s little sign of progress toward a deal.
Carmaker Stellantis resumed negotiations with the union on Monday. Officials describe the talks as “constructive.” A spokesman for General Motors says its representatives and the United Auto Workers also continue to talk.
However, UAW President Shawn Fain told NPR, “We have a long way to go.” He says if the car companies don’t respond to the union’s demands, “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, formerly Fiat Chrysler.
Besides higher wages, the UAW is also demanding shorter work weeks and stronger job security as automakers make the shift to electric vehicles.
GM says that 2,000 UAW-represented workers at an assembly plant in Kansas City are “expected to be idled as soon as early this week.” A shortage of supplies from a GM plant near St. Louis, Missouri, would cause the work stoppage. Workers at the St. Louis plant walked off the job on Friday.
The strike could begin to affect suppliers and their employees too. CIE Newcor makes metal components for the auto industry. Officials there expect a one-month closure of four plants in Michigan to start October 2 and idle nearly 300 workers.
The Biden administration has stepped up its response to the strike—mostly out of concern for the strike’s potential economic and political fallout.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNBC, “It’s premature to be making forecasts about what [the strike] means for the economy. It would depend on how long the strike lasts and who would be affected by it.”
President Joe Biden is sending two top administration officials to Detroit to meet with both sides. The President has backed the UAW in brief public comments by saying that automakers have not fairly shared their record profits with workers.
But Fain says the Biden administration won’t broker a deal. “This is our battle. Our members are out there manning the picket lines,” he says.
On Monday, members of other unions and a few politicians joined Ford workers on a picket line outside a plant in Wayne, a Detroit suburb.
U.S. Representative Haley Stevens says she walked the picket line because the strike “is showcasing a modern movement for worker justice and worker fairness.”
Tevita Uhatafe, an aircraft-maintenance worker from Arlington, Texas, showed his support too. He thought of the GM truck plant in his hometown and the UAW members there. He predicts, “This is a fight that is most likely going to happen in our backyard.”
A key feature of the UAW strategy is the threat of ramping up the strike if the union is unhappy with the pace of bargaining.
In a video statement late Monday, Fain said the union could target more factories if “serious progress” toward an agreement isn’t reached by Friday at noon.
He insists, “We’re not messing around.”
Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. — Matthew 7:12