A strike by members of the United Auto Workers union or UAW is now under way at the GM Wentzville plant in Missouri, starting early on Friday, September 15th, despite GM’s recent attempt to meet union salary demands halfway.
The UAW also launched strikes at plants operated by the other two Big Three automakers, including the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan operated by Ford and the Toledo Assembly Complex of Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio.
As tense negotiations between the UAW and its aggressive new president Shawn Fain on one hand and the Detroit Three automakers on the other approached the 11:59 p.m., September 14th deadline when the current UAW contract expired, GM made a counteroffer on Thursday that included a 20 percent pay raise.
Although the UAW had lowered its initial demand for a 46 percent overall pay raise to the mid-30s, it rejected GM’s offer and went on strike instead. Dubbed the “Stand Up Strike” by the UAW because of its members’ declared intention to “stand up” for themselves, their families, and their communities, the strike will be “our generation’s defining moment” according to the union, “not just at the Big Three, but across the entire working class.”
The name “Stand Up Strike” was chosen by the UAW to evoke the 1937 Sit-Down Strikes at the GM plant in Flint, Michigan. These historic strikes led The General to recognize the UAW in the first place and resulted in the American auto industry’s unionization.
The UAW says the Stand Up Strike will use a new strike model in which only select locals strike at one time. UAW workers at other plants will continue working, though without an active contract, meaning they no longer have the right to have the UAW arbitrate their disputes and lose management rights and union security.
If the UAW doesn’t get its demands, it will then extend the Stand Up Strike by having additional union locals go on strike and idle more capacity at other Big Three manufacturing plants. In this way, the UAW can hold a simultaneous strike across all three automakers while keeping more strikes in reserve to provide more negotiating leverage, by threatening to widen the strikes to more and more facilities.
The initial strike on Friday involved 12,000 workers belonging to the UAW across GM, Ford, and Stellantis. The GM Wentzville plant affected by the walkout produces two pickup truck models, the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon, along with two commercial vans, the Chevy Express and the GMC Savana.
The strike directed against the Blue Oval at the Michigan Assembly Plant affects production of somewhat similarly positioned vehicles, including the Ford Ranger pickup truck and the Ford Bronco SUV. The Stellantis facility in Toledo builds another popular off-road SUV, the Jeep Wrangler.
Shawn Fain, who will appear at a rally on Friday afternoon and return to the negotiating table on Saturday, proclaimed that “this union is making history,” adding that “this is our time.”
Meanwhile, GM spokesman David Barnas issued a statement saying “we are disappointed by the UAW leadership’s actions” and said the automaker “will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.”