United Auto Workers labor union joins the ‘summer of strikes’

In mid-September, the United Auto Workers labor union (UAW) announced it would be striking against Ford Motor Company, General Motors (GM) and Stellantis after worker contracts expired without a new deal being reached. The union represents about 145,000 workers with more than 18,000 currently on strike.

The strike began by targeting one facility for each company — a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio and a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan. Last week, the union expanded the strike to 38 GM and Stellantis locations in the U.S. Ford was noticeably omitted from the expansion as the union cited progress with the company that hasn’t been matched by GM and Stellantis.

The strike is just one of many historic actions taken by labor unions in 2023.

“We’ve made some real progress at Ford,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a livestream. “We still have serious issues to work through, but we do want to recognize that Ford is showing that they are serious about reaching a deal. At GM and Stellantis, it’s a different story.”

GM alternatively objected to the expansion and characterized it as “unnecessary.”

“The UAW leadership is manipulating the bargaining process for their own personal agendas,” GM said in a statement.

The union has a few key demands, including a pay increase of roughly 40%, an end to tiered wage systems that pay newer employees less, job security as the industry begins to shift to electric vehicles and a 32-hour work week.

This week, President Biden spoke to striking auto workers in Michigan, becoming the first sitting president to join a picket line. Alternatively, former President Trump delivered a speech at a non-unionized Drake Enterprises auto plant in Detroit yesterday. These appearances are part of Biden’s and Trump’s broader efforts to gain working-class support ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

The strike is just one of many historic actions taken by labor unions in 2023. Most headlines relating to labor rights this summer were dominated by the Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) strikes. The nearly five-month-long WGA strike concluded this week after the union reached a tentative deal with major Hollywood studios.

Starbucks workers across the U.S. also striked earlier this year to achieve a contract negotiation and to protest what they avow as unfair labor practices and union-busting tactics. The beginning of 2023 additionally saw a nurses’ strike at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, which resulted in a 19% pay raise. 

A school bus drivers’ strike was also narrowly avoided this month after a tentative agreement between drivers and bus companies. The wave of strikes in 2023 and this summer in particular has led many to deem it the “summer of strikes.” 

As the companies brace for an extended and possibly more expansive strike, the industry and consumers could see its effects. The UAW remains determined and motivated to persist in their dispute with the corporations.



Featured photo courtesy of Lance Cheung, Flickr