GM and Stellantis targeted in expanded UAW strike; Ford caves on two-tier pay
Ford has caved on the UAW's demand to end two-tier pay, but GM and Stellantis haven't budged. UAW President Shawn Fain said that's why those two companies are being targeted in the expanded strike announced Friday. | via UAW

DETROIT—The United Auto Workers called on 38 more locals to join its “Stand Up!” strike, starting at noon on Friday, September 22. All are at GM and Stellantis—formerly FiatChrysler—parts plants from coast to coast, as those two firms have not moved in bargaining, while Ford has.

UAW President Shawn Fain’s announcement, after a decision by the union’s bargaining team, means 41 locals, including three that began the strike at midnight September 14-15, are now striking. He read the decision in a YouTube video watched live by 46,300 people.

“All parts distribution centers at GM and Stellantis will be on strike. We will be everywhere from California to Massachusetts and we will keep going and keep expanding the Stand Up Strike as necessary,” Fain said.

The 38 locals Fain listed include 5,625 workers in 20 states, the Detroit Free Press reported. But none of them are Ford plant locals.

Ford gave up on its two-tier wage system, increased its profit-sharing offer to 13.3%, restored the cost-of-living increases (COLAs) it dropped in 2009, and agreed to “immediate conversion of all temporary workers to full-time” and the union’s right to strike over plant closings, Fain reported.

So no other Ford locals were added to the strike list. But that list still includes a key Ford local, at the paint and final assembly plant in Wayne County, Mich.

“We’re not done at Ford, but they’re serious about wanting a deal,” Fain said. “Stellantis and GM are going to need some serious pushing.” Stellantis is also getting a serious push in Italy, Fain reported. He said 6,000 of its Fiat workers have gone out on strike.

“It’s time to show the companies we are united, fed up, and standing up against corporate greed,” said Fain, reiterating a class struggle theme of workers vs. millionaires he has hit in prior speeches.

In another contrast, the parts plants in several cities—including Chicago—that supply GM and Stellantis final assembly plants with engines, drive trains, and other components of cars, trucks, and SUVs are being struck, but their Ford counterpart parts plants aren’t.

“We will shut down parts distribution centers until they come to their senses,” Fain said of the two recalcitrant car companies. Workers at those plants “are permanently stuck at the second” and lower “tier and they’re at $25 an hour for eight years” until they graduate to the top tier.

Both GM and Stellantis haven’t budged on refusing to reinstate COLAs, Fain said. Those two firms, and the UAW, were forced to accept the end of COLAs in 2009. That, and two tiers, were among key concessions the federal government wrung out of the workers and the firms as part of its loan guarantee rescue plan after FiatChrysler and GM went broke due to the 2008 financier-caused Wall Street crash. Ford did not declare bankruptcy then, but it, too, dropped the COLAs.

And both GM and Stellantis “have rejected our job security and profit-sharing” proposals, Fain said.

38 more UAW locals are joining the strike against the Big Three automakers. | Paul Sancya / AP

A partial list of the parts plants where workers were scheduled to walk out starting at noon included facilities in Marysville, Ohio, Warren, Mich., Cleveland, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Boston, and two in Chicago.

And the union may not be done with calling locals out on strike. While urging members of other locals to participate and aid those called out, Fain said, “To Spring Hill (Tenn.), I know you’re ready to go and to Kokomo (Ind.), stand with us.”

Fain also included messages for the public in his video. One was to warn customers against company price-gouging and the firms’ attempts to blame price hikes, when they come, on the workers. He said in a prior video that UAW members actually had lost money relative to inflation over the last four years, and that while car prices rose 34%, workers’ pay rose only 6%.

The other was to encourage public support from the strikers, inviting everyone “from the families on up to the president of the United States” to join the picket lines.

Democratic President Joe Biden, who in a prior press conference adopted the union’s slogan of “Record profits = record contracts,” has so far ducked the question of whether he’ll come to a picket line.

But other Democrats, including Senate Labor Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., and top Michigan officeholders have either spoken out, walked picket lines, or both.

By contrast, Republican presidential hopefuls have attacked the auto workers. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., proposed the companies fire all the strikers. The leader in GOP presidential polls, former Oval Office occupant Donald Trump, is scheduled to visit Michigan for a rally next week in an attempt to convince workers he is their candidate rather than the representative of the ruling class that he really is.

Fain did not mention either political support or opposition in his remarks but said public opinion polls show increasing support for the workers, across party and age lines. As for Trump, Fain told CNN earlier in the week, “We can’t keep electing billionaires.”


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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.