‘We will strike all three of the Big Three at once’: UAW to strike GM, Ford and Stellantis

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“In a bold and unprecedented move, the United Auto Workers initiated a momentous strike during the late hours of Thursday, simultaneously targeting all three major Detroit automakers when negotiations for a new contract failed to yield a resolution.

At precisely 11:59 p.m., UAW members at assembly plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri commenced a strike, giving rise to what the union has dubbed the ‘Stand Up Strike.’ This strategic maneuver specifically targets select facilities affiliated with Ford Motor Co., General Motors, and Stellantis, the conglomerate responsible for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Fiat brands.

Union leaders have articulated their intent to progressively identify and designate additional prime targets for strike action in successive waves should negotiations remain mired in impasse. This calculated approach seeks to maintain a state of unpredictability among automakers while bolstering the union’s position in the quest for more favorable contractual terms than those hitherto proposed by Detroit’s automotive giants.

The initial trio of facilities in the crosshairs encompasses Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant (comprising Final Assembly and Paint operations) in Wayne, Michigan; Stellantis’ Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio; and General Motors’ Wentzville Assembly facility in Missouri.

In a late-night Facebook Live livestream, UAW President Shawn Fain passionately shared a strategic plan that will not only puzzle corporate entities, but also give our national negotiators unrivaled leverage and flexibility during the negotiation process.Should the need arise, we shall spare no effort. Every conceivable option remains on the table.’

He further exhorted, ‘Regardless of the circumstances, we must persist in our organizational endeavors: rallies, protests, and the observance of red shirt days. We must convincingly demonstrate to these corporate entities our readiness to unite, stand tall, and fiercely defend our interests at a moment’s notice.’

These remarks were proffered in the waning hours of a day characterized by eleventh-hour negotiations with all three automakers, a process initiated in late summer and conducted simultaneously yet independently.

Automakers Respond with Disappointment

As the clock neared midnight, General Motors issued a statement, conveying the union’s notification of a strike at Wentzville Assembly, effective from 11:59 PM onwards. The statement expressed GM’s disappointment with the UAW leadership’s actions, notwithstanding the extraordinary economic propositions GM had tabled, encompassing historic wage increments and commitments to bolster manufacturing. The statement emphasized GM’s unwavering commitment to continue engaging in bona fide negotiations with the union to expedite the formulation of an agreeable accord, all while prioritizing the well-being of its workforce.

Stellantis, too, responded with a statement reflecting its profound disappointment in the UAW leadership’s refusal to engage responsibly in negotiations aimed at forging an equitable agreement in the best interests of employees, their families, and customers. The company promptly transitioned into contingency mode, prepared to make requisite structural decisions to safeguard its North American operations and the enterprise at large.

Stimulating Negotiations Rather Than Paralyzing

Stellantis holds sway over the production of its renowned Jeep Wrangler, Wrangler 4xe, and Jeep Gladiator pickups at the Toledo Complex. Meanwhile, Ford’s Michigan Assembly, previously known as the Michigan Truck Plant, is the bastion for the fabrication of the Ranger mid-size pickup and the Bronco SUV. In Wentzville, Missouri, General Motors oversees the assembly of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups, alongside the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans.

Labor expert Harley Shaiken, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, contextualized the significance of this strike’s initial targets, noting, ‘The three assembly plants chosen for the initial strike serve as a resounding shot across the bow. This strategic move inflicts economic distress without precipitating a comprehensive corporate standstill. Its purpose is to galvanize negotiations rather than paralyze the entire corporate apparatus.’

Should this tactic fail to elicit a more favorable proposition, Shaiken speculated that the union might pivot to striking more ‘strategically positioned’ plants, thereby intensifying pressure on automakers by hampering the production of essential components such as engines, transmissions, and other vital parts. He harkened back to the 1998 strike when a GM stamping plant and a GM Delphi electronics plant in Flint paralyzed the corporation for 54 days, raising the specter of financial setbacks for workers at unaffected plants reliant on these components.

Alternatively, the union could resort to the extreme measure of a comprehensive plant shutdown at a single automaker. Shaiken surmised, ‘What renders our current predicament unprecedented is the multitude of divergent paths available to the union to advance its demands. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the UAW is not the sole actor in this narrative; automakers, too, possess the latitude to explore strategic alternatives.’

The choice of initial strike targets by the UAW assumes heightened significance, as each of these facilities represents a linchpin in the operations of one of the ‘Big Three’ automakers, observed Marick Masters, a renowned labor expert

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