UAW Strike 2023
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union embarked on an unprecedented strike that simultaneously targeted General Motors (GM), Ford, and Stellantis, marking a historic moment in labor relations within the American automotive industry. Union Life Insurance shares the story.
On a fateful Friday, workers from three key manufacturing facilities, one affiliated with each of the Big Three automakers, staged walkouts in Missouri, Michigan, and Ohio. As they picketed outside their plants, they received spirited support from fellow union members waving signs.
The UAW termed this synchronized strike a “Stand Up Strike,” characterizing it as a novel strategic approach to work stoppages. The union conveyed to its members that as time progresses, more local chapters might be called upon to “Stand Up” and join the strike. This strategy aimed to provide the UAW with maximal leverage and flexibility in their quest for equitable contracts with the major automakers.
The UAW’s strike initially commenced at GM’s Wentzville plant in Missouri, which boasted a workforce of 3,600 UAW members. Simultaneously, Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, with 3,300 workers, and Stellantis’ Toledo Assembly complex in Ohio, housing 5,800 employees, also witnessed strike action. In total, fewer than 13,000 of the UAW’s 145,000 members across the nation participated in the strike.
Patrick Anderson, CEO of Anderson Economic Group, noted that the UAW’s selection of these specific plants reflected a calculated strategy. This strategy aimed to disrupt a substantial number of suppliers and dealerships while minimizing the initial number of UAW workers on strike who would be receiving strike pay.
The strike arose following the automakers’ dismissal of the UAW’s ambitious demands for higher wages, improved benefits, and enhanced job protections for its members. With all three automakers reporting record or near-record profits, the union sought to regain benefits that had been relinquished over a decade ago during the industry’s financial turmoil.
The automakers did propose double-digit wage increases, but these offers fell short of the union’s negotiators’ demands. Scott Fox, a striking worker at Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant, emphasized the importance of securing favorable conditions for the next generation of autoworkers.
GM expressed disappointment but committed to continued negotiations, highlighting the substantial economic package it had presented, including substantial wage hikes and manufacturing commitments. GM CEO Mary Barra, while expressing frustration with the strike, underscored the appealing offer her company had made to the union. She cited pay raises of up to 21%, job security, and comprehensive healthcare coverage.
Stellantis conveyed its disappointment with the UAW leadership’s approach, stating that it had shifted the company into “contingency mode.” Ford CEO Jim Farley contended that the company could not fulfill all of the union’s demands, a sentiment contested by UAW President Shawn Fain.
Despite its magnitude, the strike was less extensive than initially anticipated. Observers had speculated that the union might target plants supplying multiple assembly facilities, potentially halting production across the board with just a handful of plants on strike. However, the UAW’s plant choices allowed the majority of assembly plants to continue operations.
The strike’s impact remained limited to models such as the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon pickups, Ford Ranger, Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, and others that were not the top sellers for the automakers.
UAW President Shawn Fain indicated that additional workers might be called upon to join the strike if necessary, emphasizing the union’s determination to demonstrate their readiness to fight for fair treatment.
Automakers countered that the strike would ultimately harm, rather than benefit, UAW members. They pointed out the disparity between strike benefits and actual wages, which could significantly affect workers’ incomes if the strike persisted.
The companies had offered substantial hourly wage increases, potentially elevating the most senior autoworkers’ base pay to over $80,000 annually, excluding overtime and profit-sharing bonuses. However, the union initially sought an immediate 20% raise and additional increments during the contract’s duration.
In addition to pay and benefits, the UAW sought to address past concessions made in 2007 and 2009. These demands included ending lower-tier pay and benefits for workers hired since 2007, reinstating traditional pension plans, and regaining cost-of-living adjustments. The union also called for limits on forced overtime, restrictions on temporary workers, and a shorter workweek without pay reduction.
Beyond these issues, the UAW expressed concerns about job losses and plant closures, pointing out that the three automakers had shuttered 65 plants this century due to automation, outsourcing, and competition from nonunion automakers. The union also worried that the transition to electric vehicles, which require less labor, could lead to further job losses.
In this unprecedented labor struggle, the UAW aimed to achieve better conditions and safeguards for its members, while automakers sought to balance labor costs with their profitability and competitiveness in an evolving industry.
Don’t forget that your Union Life Insurance waives your premium for up to 3 full months while your union is on strike and where you may not be working. Also see what is in store for your family as your benefits can help.