A strike might be carried out simultaneously at all of the Big Three or Detroit Three automakers – GM, Ford, and Stellantis – for the first time in history if the United Auto Workers union or UAW carries through on its threat to call a work halt if its demands aren’t met.
Bloomberg reports the aggressive new UAW president, Shawn Fain, describes his own demands as “audacious,” but also states the union is at “war” with the three major car companies. A triple strike could occur if union demands aren’t met by September 14th, Fain says.
At a time when polls show increasing support for labor unions among the American people, the UAW has a list of significant demands. It expects the Big Three to pony up a 46 percent boost to pay while cutting the work week to 32 hours. Unionization of EV facilities is another key demand, as is restoration of pensions and health benefits cut during the “Great Recession” and never restored.
Fain notes that many workers across the economy received their salaries while working from home, while auto workers were expected to take on the pandemic’s dangers in the workplace. The automakers raked in record-breaking profits while giving workers a pair of 3 percent raises during the past four years, less than the inflation rate.
Fain, who has also taken on the role of UAW reformer following corruption cases involving earlier leadership, says there is “a horrible history in this union of setting expectations low and settling lower” to which he added “those days are over.” He says the union will not budge on its demands or on the potential triple strike, declaring “the deadline is the deadline.”
From the other perspective, Fain’s approach amounts to “promising the sun, the moon, the Earth and the stars to people who are, frankly, easily impressed” according to consultant Johan de Nysschen. He added that “even if he succeeds, his members still lose because the car companies will go bankrupt,” echoing claims that GM and the other automakers would incur $80 billion in extra costs if they met UAW demands.
The UAW has courted political assistance in resolving the dispute with GM and the other big automakers. So far, its efforts to prompt government intervention have brought only generalized calls for fairness from the Biden administration, while presidential hopeful Donald Trump has attempted to gain favor with the union by blasting Biden’s EV policies.
If a large ten-day strike, including a strike at all three of the big Detroit carmakers, does happen, some analysts claim the economic impact could exceed $5 billion.