The United Auto Workers union has overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike throughout its ongoing contract negotiations with the Big Three.
The strike received a 96.4% approval at General Motors UAW locals, while Fiat Chrysler workers voted 96% in favor and Ford workers 95.98%.
Additionally, the UAW announced that it would first target GM in its contract negotiations, using its deal with the largest American automaker as leverage when it heads to the bargaining table with Ford and FCA.
The UAW has expressed frustration with GM in recent months, with the automaker employing less UAW members than any other American automaker following its spate of layoffs this year.
“Mary Barra said from the outset of these talks that we will stand up as we tackle a changing industry,” said UAW president Gary Jones in a statement released this morning. “We are focused. We are prepared and we are all ready to stand up for our members, our communities and our manufacturing future.”
GM Spokesman David Barnas said the automaker looks forward to “having constructive discussions with the UAW on reaching an agreement that builds a strong future for our employees and our business.”
While the 150,000 UAW workers employed by GM, Ford and FCA voted to approve a strike, it does not mean a strike will happen. The vote simply determines if a worker strike is a tactic that can be used throughout the contract talks by UAW negotiators.
“No one goes into collective bargaining taking a strike lightly,” Jones said. “But it is a key tool in the tool belt as our bargaining team sits across from the company. Ultimately, the company holds that destiny in their hands as they bargain.”
There is no shortage of outside drama affecting this round of contract negotiations. An ongoing corruption investigation into the UAW led the FBI to raid Jones’ house in Michigan last week, prompting outcry from the union, which claimed the raid was not necessary as Jones has been co-operating with the investigation. GM has its own in-house issues, as well, with the automaker looking to restructure and “right-size” its business in anticipation of a coming automotive industry downturn.
Experts believe the UAW targeted GM as the first company to enter contract negotiations with as it is most likely to receive public support due to the automaker’s recent high-profile factory closures. The automaker is also in the best financial standing of the Big Three.
The UAW’s contract with the Big Three expires on September 14 ,2019.