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U.A.W. Escalates Strike Pressure on Ford and G.M. Over Pay and Benefits Demands

The United Automobile Workers (U.A.W.) union has intensified the pressure on automotive giants Ford Motor and General Motors (G.M.) by expanding its strike to include two additional car assembly plants. The U.A.W. alleges that these companies have not made substantial efforts to meet their demands for increased pay and benefits.


This latest development represents the second escalation of strikes that initially began on September 15th, affecting three plants—one owned by each of the Big Three automakers: G.M., Ford, and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Jeep, and Ram. However, the union decided not to extend the strike against Stellantis this week due to reported progress in negotiations with the company.

U.A.W.’s President, Shawn Fain, announced that workers at a Ford plant in Chicago and a G.M. factory in Lansing, Michigan, would participate in the strike. At the Lansing facility, G.M. manufactures the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse sport-utility vehicles, while Ford produces the Explorer, the Police Interceptor Utility, and the Lincoln Aviator in Chicago.

Fain criticized Ford and G.M. for their perceived lack of progress in negotiations, stating in a live-streamed video that, “Ford and G.M. have refused to make meaningful progress at the bargaining table.”

The Ford plant in Chicago employs approximately 4,600 U.A.W. members, while G.M.’s Lansing facility has 2,300 union workers. Combining these recent additions to the strike with those who had already walked off the job, more than 25,000 U.A.W. members at the three automakers have now been called to halt work. The combined U.A.W. membership at these three automakers totals nearly 150,000 workers.


The U.A.W. initially began its strike action at 38 spare-parts distribution centres owned by G.M. and Stellantis a week ago. The union did not expand the strike at Ford at that time, citing significant progress in contract negotiations with the company.

One of the key demands put forth by the U.A.W. is a substantial wage increase for its members. The union’s initial request was for a 40 per cent raise, pointing to the considerable profits generated by all three automakers over the past decade and the substantial increases in executive pay over the past four years.

In response, the companies have offered roughly 20 percent wage increases over a span of four years. Some other demands, such as cost-of-living adjustments in case of surging inflation and the right to strike if plants are closed, have been agreed upon by Ford and the U.A.W.


There are concerns that if the automakers acquiesce to most of the U.A.W.’s demands, they might encounter difficulties in competing in the fast-growing electric vehicle (EV) market, where Tesla—a non-union automaker—currently dominates. Professor Gordon explained that while the union could enjoy significant gains in the short term, such concessions could eventually lead to job losses due to decreased competitiveness.

Negotiations between the U.A.W. and the automakers are ongoing, and the union recently presented its latest counteroffer to Stellantis. In response to this evolving situation, Ford’s CEO, Jim Farley, stated that the company and the U.A.W. are “very close” to reaching a deal but remain at odds over contract terms for workers at four EV battery factories the automaker is constructing. He emphasized that these discussions should not impede negotiations for a new four-year contract since the battery plant operations won’t commence for several years.


The U.A.W. holds a different perspective, expressing concerns that automakers may use the transition to electric vehicles as an opportunity to lower wages and reduce the number of unionized workers. They want workers at battery factories—whether partially or fully owned by automakers—to be included in the national contracts negotiated with the U.A.W.

Despite these ongoing challenges, the strike strategy of targeting specific plants while involving all three automakers is a departure from the U.A.W.’s traditional approach of halting most or all operations at one company. The union hopes that this strategy will keep the companies uncertain about which parts of their operations could be affected next, potentially strengthening its bargaining position.

While these strikes have impacted the companies’ profits, they have also minimized damage to suppliers, local businesses, and the broader national economy. The U.A.W. faces a financial burden as it provides striking workers with $500 per week from its $825 million strike fund to support their livelihoods during the strike.