UAW Contract Deadline Nears: 'Nobody's Coming to Save Us'

United Auto Workers leader Shawn Fain says likely strike will be 'limited and targeted'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2023 7:53 AM CDT
UAW Contract Deadline Nears: 'Nobody's Coming to Save Us'
A UAW member holds up a sign at a rally by United Auto Workers Local 863 in Louisville, Kentucky, on Aug. 24.   (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

The head of the United Auto Workers union said Wednesday that a strike against Detroit's Big Three automakers is imminent, with negotiations ahead of Thursday's 11:59pm contract deadline not making the headway needed to fend off a work stoppage at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, per the AP and New York Times. "We do not yet have offers on the table that reflect the sacrifices and contributions our members have made to these companies," UAW President Shawn Fain said in an online speech. "To win we're likely going to have to take action. We are preparing to strike these companies in a way they've never seen before." Fain said contract extensions aren't on the table, and that strikes will be "limited and targeted." More on the looming strike:

  • Teamster support: Truck drivers who transport vehicles are standing with UAW members if a strike comes down, meaning they won't make deliveries for the US automakers, reports the Detroit Free Press. "We are 100% supportive of UAW workers and Shawn Fain's positions," said Kevin Moore, head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 299. "Our Teamsters will not cross strike lines."

  • Fain's warning: The union president took to Facebook Live on Wednesday night to make a final pep talk to workers, per the Free Press. "The Big Three can afford to give us our fair share," he said. "If they choose not to, they're choosing to strike themselves. We are not afraid to take action." He then added: "Nobody's coming to save us," he said. "We've got to have faith in each other."
  • Another warning: This one comes courtesy of Mark Fields, the CEO of Ford from 2014 to 2017, who says the US automakers can't give in to union pressure in a way that leaves them vulnerable to financial problems. "The automakers can't plead poverty," he told CNN Business on Wednesday. "They will need to find a creative way to package a fair contract that rewards workers but do it in a way that doesn't repeat the mistakes of the past."
  • Automaker response: After Fain's Facebook Live, GM issued a statement that read, in part: "We continue to bargain directly and in good faith with the UAW and have presented additional strong offers," per the Free Press. In his own statement, Ford CEO Jim Farley noted, "If there is a strike, it's not because Ford didn't make a great offer. ... We still have not received any genuine counteroffer." Meanwhile, Stellantis' reaction: "We're still awaiting the UAW's response to the offer we presented yesterday. Our focus remains on bargaining in good faith to have a tentative agreement on the table before the collective bargaining agreement expires."
  • 'The elephant in the room': That would be Tesla, Elon Musk's electric car company, which Axios labels "a growing threat to the established US automakers." It's also the one company that could emerge the winner if either the UAW or the Big Three automakers come out of the negotiations weakened.
  • Biden's stake: One person in particular is facing a "moment of peril" due to the strike—President Biden. The Washington Post notes that Biden has deemed himself "the most pro-union president in history," and to that end, he's facing pressure to "avoid a strike while also pursuing an elusive endorsement from the UAW," especially as the state of Michigan will be a key swing state in next year's election and likely the state most affected by the potential strike.
(More UAW stories.)

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