The last major strike in the United States in the auto sector that affected General Motors dates back to 2019. But this time, union president Shawn Fain ordered the approximately 146,000 union members working for the three historic manufacturers in the country to be ready depending on the evolution of the negotiations on wages, warning that the union would not hesitate to extend the movement. His demands received public support from President Biden.
The powerful union of employees of the three big American automakers, General Motors, Stellantis and Ford, has confirmed the start of this strike in three factories from yesterday.
In fact, the United Auto Workers are calling for a 36% wage increase over four years, while the three American manufacturers have not gone further than 20% (Ford). The three historic giants of Detroit notably also refused to grant additional days of leave and to increase pensions, provided by funds specific to each company.
In a speech at the White House this Friday, President Biden reacted to the social movement. “These record profits have not been shared fairly” with employees, said the American president, urging the signing of a “win-win” agreement between union and companies.
Three factories chosen
“The strike begins in the three designated factories,” declared the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which had announced earlier that it had chosen three factories to launch this movement, one from each of the General Motors, Stellantis and Ford groups. The sites concerned are embly plants: in Wentzville (Missouri) for GM, in Toledo (Ohio) for Stellantis and in Wayne (Michigan) for Ford. They total approximately 12,700 UAW union members.
In a statement released immediately, Ford said it was “absolutely committed to reaching an agreement that rewards employees and protects Ford’s ability to invest for the future.” According to the group, the counter-proposal sent Thursday evening by the UAW “showed few differences from the initial demands” of the union. Ford called the offer he made to the union more than two days ago “historically generous with significant wage increases” and other benefits.
Same story from GM. Questioned Friday on CNN, Mary Barra, the head of GM, also defended the manufacturers’ proposals, which include “not only a 20% increase in gross salary, but also the sharing of profits, health care for world cl and several other features. So we think we have a very competitive offer on the table,” she argued.
A loss of five billion dollars for ten days of strike
General Motors Chairman Mark Reuss said a strike would be “a very, very sad outcome” with significant consequences. “For one person in our factories who does not work, there are six others who do not work,” he said.
“We are extremely disappointed by the refusal of UAW leaders to engage responsibly to reach a fair agreement in the best interest of our employees, their families and our customers,” he said. Stellantis in a press release this Friday.
The consulting firm Anderson Economic Group (AEG) estimates that a ten-day strike could represent more than five billion dollars in lost revenue for the American economy. Beyond the direct consequences for automobile manufacturers, such a social conflict could have political consequences for President Joe Biden, whose economic record is criticized, in particular due to stubborn inflation, especially at a little over one year before the presidential election.