Monday, September 25, 2023

A historic strike begins in the USA, affecting three major automobile manufacturers

The powerful United Auto Workers (UAW) union began a strike this Friday at three key auto factories in the United States. It was the first simultaneous strike by workers at Detroit’s three major manufacturers: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.

After negotiations collapsed, workers stationed outside a Ford factory honked and cheered at midnight Thursday to mark the start of the mobilization.

“Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will be striking all of the Big Three at the same time,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a webcast shortly before the deadline for a strike agreement.

The mobilization of the Big Three can destabilize the automotive sector and even the US economy.

However, according to estimates by the UAW union, which represents 150,000 workers in the sector, only 12,700 workers will be unemployed this Friday.

Fain explained that the strike would affect one plant from each manufacturer.

In the case of General Motors, the assembly plant in Wentzville (Missouri) will strike, at Stellantis the affected plant will be in Toledo (Ohio) and the manufacturer Ford will strike in Wayne (Michigan), but only in the final plants. Assembly and painting, which are essential.

According to the union, the UAW is demanding a wage increase of 36% in four years, while the three American manufacturers have not exceeded 20% (Ford).

The historic Detroit giants also refused to grant additional vacation days and increase pensions provided from specific funds of each company.

– “It’s time they gave us something” –

In two months of negotiations, UAW officials and Big Three leaders failed to agree on the content of a new four-year collective bargaining agreement.

“We will not allow the Big Three to drag out discussions for months,” Fain warned this week.

Many workers believe the auto giants need to come up with better proposals to make up for meager wages and benefit cuts following the 2008 financial crisis.

This financial collapse led to restructuring at both GM and Chrysler, now owned by Stellantis, as both were on the verge of bankruptcy.

All three companies have been very profitable in recent years.

“This company has been making money from us for years,” said Paul Sievert, an employee who has worked at the Ford plant in Wayne for 29 years. “I think it’s time for them to give something back to us.”

Ford boss Jim Farley questioned the striker leader on Thursday evening.

“I don’t know what Shawn Fain is doing, but he’s not negotiating with us about this contract when it’s about to expire. But I know he’s busy preparing for a strike,” Farley said on CNBC.

The board said he wanted “a historic strike in the three groups, but we want to make history with a historic agreement.”

– An election risk for Biden –

A prolonged social conflict could have political consequences for US President Joe Biden, whose economic record has been criticized, particularly due to persistent inflation.

Biden is in delicate territory as he campaigns for re-election in 2024, balancing explicit support for unions and fear of the consequences of this strike on the American economy.

On Thursday evening, the president spoke by telephone with Fain and the manufacturers’ managers to find out about the negotiations.

“Consumers and retailers are generally relatively protected from the impact of a short strike,” said Tyler Theile, vice president of consulting firm Anderson Economic Group (AEG).

But with inventories a fifth of what the industry had in 2019 during GM’s last strike, “they could be hit much quicker” than four years ago, he said.

Analysts at JPMorgan believe a sharp rise in wages would impact vehicle sales prices and encourage drivers to “keep their cars longer” rather than buy a new model.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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