The president of the United Auto Workers union, Shawn Fain, announced on Friday there would not be a strike expansion after Ford promised to include EV battery plants in the master union contact. The nationwide strike already involves workers at the Ford Assembly plant in Chicago, and parts distribution the Stellantis parts distribution facility in Naperville, and a GM parts distribution in Bolingbrook.
The strike began four weeks ago in plants of Ford, General Motors and Stellantis in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri. A week later, the strike was expanded to 38 parts distribution centers, including in Naperville and Bolingbrook. A week ago, Ford announced hundreds of layoffs at a Chicago Heights plant. Ford said the layoffs were inevitable. The plant at 126th Street and Torrence Avenue employs close to 5,000 workers who make the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Aviator and police SUV interceptors.
Automaker Concessions to Date
General Motors (GM) has agreed to have the workers at its future EV battery plants be covered by the national labor agreement governing other UAW members at GM, Fain said, after the UAW threated an expansion of the strike to a GM plant in Arlington, Texas, that assembles the company’s full-sized SUVs.
The agreement is a major breakthrough on the union’s key demand that there be a “just transition” from gasoline powered cars to EVs, which are seen as a threat to union jobs.
“We have had a breakthrough that not only dramatically changed negotiations, it is going to change the future of our union and future of our industry,” said Fain.
GM said in a statement Friday said negotiations are continuing with the UAW. “Our goal remains to reach an agreement that rewards our employees and allows GM to be successful into the future,” the company said. The company has said it does not oppose all the battery plants being union represented, but the company would need to be cost competitive with workers at other non-union battery plants that have opened or are planned to open. Those plants generally pay about half of the current UAW pay scale.
It is alleged that the offer from GM to include electric battery production in the new contract came just 30 minutes before Fain was set to announce an expanded strike, with GM falling behind Ford and Stellantis in negotiations.
Stellantis avoided a strike expansion because they made progress on cost-of-living adjustments, job security, and skilled trades labor. Ford leads the way with the highest wage increase offer on the table at 23% over four years, more than twice their alleged initial offer of 9%.
Strike Impact to Date
Although the union is not expanding the strike, it remains on strike at five assembly plants spread between the three companies, as well as a network of parts distribution centers.
GM has admitted to losing $200 million in the first two weeks of the strike. On Friday, Ford said it would lay off 495 employees at its Cleveland Engine Plant, Lima Engine Plant and its Sterling Axle Plant. The layoffs come despite Ford being spared in expanded strikes that day. Ford said that brings its total strike-related layoffs to 1,800 workers.
“We are making significant progress. In just three weeks we are moving these companies further than anyone thought was possible,” Fain said. “Our strike is working. But we’re not there yet.”
The UAW strike is not just having an impact on the automotive supply chain. It is also having an impact on other supply chains, such as the steel industry and the plastics industry. This is because these industries supply materials to the automotive industry.
The strike is also having an impact on the global economy. As a result of the strike, there is a shortage of vehicles and parts. This is causing prices to rise and is disrupting production at other companies.
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