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Major US Automobile Manufacturers Face Strike as Union Demands Go Unmet

At midnight Thursday-Friday US time, 0400 am GMT, workers in the 3 largest automobile manufacturing companies in the United States began a strike in 3 factories, as no agreement was reached on new collective labor contracts.

Two hours before midnight, Sean Fein, head of the United Auto Workers union, announced that the strike would begin in 3 factories, one from each group: General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford, calling on workers in the rest of the factories. To prepare to join this strike if companies continue to reject the union’s demands. He said: “We will go on strike in the big three at the same time.” “We are launching a new strategy.” He added: “We will call on factories to strike… Tonight, we will call on 3 factories if we do not reach an agreement within the next two hours.”

The three factories that the union identified to launch this protest movement are dedicated to assembling cars, which are the General Motors factory in Wentzville (Missouri), the Stellantis factory in Toledo (Ohio), and the Ford factory in Wayne (Michigan). The total number of workers in these three factories who are members of the union is about 12,700 workers. The union stated that the strike participants will receive $500 per week each as compensation for the strike.

Finn urged all union members working in the three major companies, numbering about 146,000 workers, to prepare to go on strike if the employers do not meet their demands. He warned that the union would not hesitate to expand the scope of this protest movement.

Negotiations between workers and employers began two months ago to reach new collective labor agreements for a period of 4 years. The union, led by its recently elected president, Sean Fein, adopted a hard-line stance in talks with car manufacturers, demanding significant wage increases, the reintroduction of cost-of-living allowances, and raising insurance limits.

During the past months, the union demanded a 36 percent wage increase, while General Motors and Ford offered increases of about 20 percent, while Stellantis’ offer was only 17.5 percent.

The history of workers in the auto industry is full of strikes, the most recent of which was at General Motors in 2019, but this is the first time in the union’s 88-year history that simultaneous action has taken place against the major automakers in the United States.

If the strike extends for a long time, it may result in a severe shortage in supply and an increase in car prices, which may affect the overall American economy, which is already facing a fierce battle against inflation. Observers say that the wave may spread to workers in other companies inside and outside the United States who are following the ongoing battle to evaluate its effects.

For their part, major car companies were quick to denounce the strike. Stellantis said in an email statement, reported by Bloomberg: “We are extremely disappointed by the refusal of the union leadership to engage responsibly to reach a fair agreement that is in the interests of our employees, their families, and our customers.”

After the strike began, Stellantis added: “We will immediately place the company in emergency mode and will make all appropriate structural decisions to protect our operations in North America.”

General Motors said that it is “disappointed by the actions of the union leadership, despite the unprecedented economic packages put forward by the company, including a historic increase in wages and manufacturing commitments, and we will continue to negotiate in good faith with the union in order to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.” maybe”.

For its part, Ford said in a statement that “the corresponding proposal from the union reflects limited movement on its initial demands,” adding that these demands will give an additional competitive boost to competing companies that do not include workers who are union members, such as “Tesla” and “Ford.” Toyota Motor Corp.

Ford CEO Jim Farley warned of a bleak scenario if the company agrees to union demands for a 40 percent pay increase, an end to the graduated pay system that pays new employees less than veterans, and a return to defined-benefit pensions. He said the union’s proposals “will put us out of business.”

But Finn said Ford could have funded better wages and benefits for workers if it had cut back on stock buybacks and dividends to shareholders. Ford announced that it will return $2.5 billion to investors in 2022.

As the strike began, Finn and Debbie Dingell, a Democratic representative for Michigan, were among those at the Ford plant, where about 3,300 union members assemble the popular Bronco SUVs and Ranger pickup trucks.

“I’m just here to support the workers,” Dingell said. “They want to see wage adjustments that are commensurate with the cost of living.”

One supporter of the striking workers at the plant, a 38-year-old former General Motors employee who declined to give his name, said he does not believe the industrial action will stop until automakers respond to union demands. He added to Reuters: “We deserve what we deserve.”

2023-09-16 09:00:13
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