The head of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union warned on Sunday of a possible “intensification” of the strike between the three largest US automakers that began on Friday if the companies do not present better wage proposals, as the conflict enters the political debate.
“If we don’t get better deals … we’re going to step it up,” UAW President Shawn Fain said on the CBS talk show “Face the Nation.” General Motors, Ford and Stellantis have “no excuse” for not resolving pay disputes given their huge profits in recent years, he said.
“We have been behind for decades,” he added, explaining that the workers he represents are “fed up.”
Fain has been highly abusive since negotiations began two months ago and increased the pressure on Saturday after talks between the union and the industry’s “big three” resumed.
“We had somewhat productive discussions with Ford today,” a UAW source told AFP on Saturday.
Three plants have been closed since Friday: one owned by General Motors in Wentzville, Missouri, another owned by Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio, and a Ford subsidiary in Wayne, Michigan.
The conflict affects 12,700 of the 150,000 UAW members who work at these companies. There has never been a strike in all three companies at the same time.
For now, the union has decided to limit the scope of work stoppages so as not to block all production.
“Stellantis and the UAW have entered a critical phase of negotiations,” the group, formed from the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA Group, said on Saturday.
Stellantis has increased its offer, proposing an increase of “nearly 21%” over the four-year term of the new collective agreement, up from 14.5% a week ago.
For Fain, an offer of 21% is far from enough and he understands that the employees deserve the same 40% raise as the manufacturers’ managers.
“We don’t want to hear about an increase like that,” he said on CBS on Sunday.
GM and Ford are offering to raise wages by 20% overall.
The Republican Party has exploited this conflict to launch new attacks on Democratic President Joe Biden over the general nature of his economic policies.
Biden “led policies that caused the worst inflation in 40 years,” former Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday when asked about the strike on CNN.
Some economists actually attribute part of the price increase to the line promoted by Biden, but also to the stimulus measures taken by Donald Trump at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, as well as to the effects of the pandemic itself, which affected the chains. the offer.
“Autoworkers are experiencing the same situation as other Americans, which is that wages are not keeping up with inflation,” said Pence, candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2024 presidential election.
Biden, who is running for a second term, sent a message of support to UAW members on Friday, urging manufacturers in the industry to “go further” in their offers for wage increases.
Democratic and independent left-wing lawmakers picketed or rallied in the northern region of the United States, where many of the “big three” factories are located.
Following leftist Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jefferies announced Sunday that he would travel to Detroit later in the day to show his “solidarity” with the union.
“We hope this will be over quickly, but (…) these companies have made an incredible economic profit (…) and it seems right to me that these benefits are shared by everyone,” Jefferies said on ABC.