Friday, 1 December 2023

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6 critical things to know about the autoworkers strike that threatens to reshape the economy, politics, and labor’s future

6 critical things to know about the autoworkers strike that threatens to reshape the economy, politics, and labor's future

The United Auto Workers’ strike is getting bigger. One week into the union’s historic work stoppages against major car makers, the UAW on Friday walked out of dozens of more factories across 20 states.

The UAW’s targeted strikes against General Motors, Stellantis and Ford began after the union’s contract with the companies expired at midnight on Sept. 14. At the time, 13,000 workers walked out of three assembly plants — and union leadership warned that more locations could be impacted there wasn’t significant progress in contract negotiations.

Bargaining continued Thursday, although neither side reported any breakthroughs, and on Friday the UAW announced it would be walking out of 38 more General Motors and Stellantis parts distribution centers. Another 5,600 workers joined the strike — meaning that about 13% of the union’s 146,000 members are now on the picket lines.

Ford was spared additional strikes Friday because the company has met some of the union’s demands during negotiations over the past week, UAW President Shawn Fain said.

The UAW is seeking big raises and better benefits — pointing to CEO pay raises and profits that the three companies have raked in recent years. They also want to get back concessions that the workers made years ago.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Three say they can’t afford to meet the union’s demands because they need to invest profits in a costly transition from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles. In the last week, tensions rose as the companies laid off a thousands of workers, saying some factories are running short on parts because of the strike.

On the consumer side, with no immediate end in sight, the strike could also cause significant disruptions to auto production in the United States down the line. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.


The union is asking for 36% raises in general pay over four years — a top-scale assembly plant worker gets about $32 an hour now. In addition, the UAW has demanded an end to varying tiers of wages for factory jobs; a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay; the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires who now receive only 401(k)-style retirement plans; and a return of cost-of-living pay raises, among other benefits.

Perhaps most important to the union is that it be allowed to represent workers at 10 electric vehicle battery factories, most of which are being built by joint…

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