The United Auto Workers (UAW) union expanded its strike against major automakers on Friday, closing 38 General Motors and Stellantis parts distribution centers in 20 states.
Another 5,600 workers joined the strike, in addition to 13,000 of the 146,000 union members who went on strike a week ago.
Ford was spared from further strikes because the company met some of the union’s demands during negotiations last week, said UAW President Shawn Fain.
“We have made real progress at Ford,” Fain said during an online presentation to union members. “We still have serious issues to resolve, but we want to recognize that Ford is showing they are serious about reaching an agreement.”
“The story is different with GM and Stellantis,” he said. These companies, he said, have rejected the union’s proposals for cost of living increases, profit sharing and job security.
The union is highlighting automakers’ recent huge gains by seeking wage increases of 36% over four years. Companies have offered just over half that amount. The UAW has other demands, including a 32-hour work week with 40-hour pay and restoring traditional pension plans for new workers.
The companies say they cannot give in to the union’s demands despite their huge profits because they need to invest in switching to electric vehicles.
The UAW’s contract with the automakers expired at midnight on September 14, and workers walked out of a Ford assembly plant near Detroit, a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri, and a Stellantis Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio .
Fain had already announced days ago that he would call for strikes in other factories if there was no significant progress in contract negotiations with the manufacturers. Negotiations continued Thursday, although neither side reported significant progress and major disagreements remained over pay increases.
Companies have laid off thousands of workers as factories reportedly lack auto parts due to the strike.
Still, the impact on dealers’ lots has not yet been felt – analysts say it will likely be several weeks before the strike leads to a significant shortage of new vehicles. However, prices could rise sooner if the prospect of a prolonged strike triggers panic buying.
Friday’s decision is crucial for Fain, who narrowly won an election in March and unseated the union’s then-chairman. He pursued an unusual strategy of negotiating simultaneously with Detroit’s three major automakers.