In the United States, the largest auto union UAW has gone on strike for the first time in its history at the same time as the “Big Three” GM, Ford and the Stellantis Chrysler brand. Only three plants with 12,700 workers were affected earlier on Friday. But the union warned that if there is no agreement in collective bargaining talks, the labor dispute could escalate into one of the biggest in decades: “If we all have to go, we will,” UAW boss Shawn Fain said.
Automotive experts also see the switch to electricity, which will cause job losses, as a motivation for assembly line workers. As a result of industrial action, companies are coming under great pressure in the midst of change. The more their production lines stand still, the more competitors like Tesla, Toyota, Honda and Mercedes, whose factories are not integrated, can benefit.
The cost? 500 million dollars a week
The strikes are the latest in a dispute between Fain and management at three Detroit-based automakers. For the first time, they are striking at the same time, where previously negotiations were held with only one company and then, in the best case, others followed suit. A full strike could cost each of the three automakers up to $500 million (€466 million) in profits – per week. The initial collective agreement expired Friday night. The attacks will halt production of the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, along with other popular and profitable models.
US President Joe Biden commented on the strike in the evening: “Nobody wants a strike, but I respect the right of workers to exercise their options within the collective bargaining system,” Biden told reporters in Washington on Friday. “I understand the frustration of the staff.” They should share in the company’s record profits, said Biden.
Safety of work during electronic switching
In the current dispute, the UAW wants to get a bigger share of the profits from the combustion car business and more job security for its members as a result of switching to electric cars. “The union also sees the risk of change or disruption of the automotive industry through electric work,” said automotive expert Frank Schwope. “The long-standing American car companies in particular are still making big losses with their electric cars and will have to adjust their designs in the future.” However, the American car market is changing more slowly than those of Europe and China.
When it comes to money, developers have improved their offers and are now offering between 17.5 and 20 percent more over four and a half years. But that’s only about half of what the UAW needs. The party also wants to end the stagnant wage system, where new hires reach the same salary level as long-term workers after eight years. The UAW represents nearly 150,000 workers on strike – 57,000 at Ford, 46,000 at GM and 43,000 at the Chrysler brand, which is part of the European group Stellantis.
The Bible Unionist
Fain said the UAW will avoid a more expensive, company-wide strike for now, but is keeping all options open. The 54-year-old, who often quotes from the Bible and was narrowly elected as the head of the UAW, described the collective bargaining crisis as a battle to realign power between workers and global corporations: “We are fighting for the welfare of the class the whole of the workers and the poor”.
However, the union must also maintain a sense of balance. Its fund, which pays strike pay to its members, is capped at $825 million. “The UAW needs to be careful not to overdo it,” wrote CFRA Research analyst Garrett Nelson. “The balance sheets of the Detroit Three are flush with cash, and they can probably last longer than the staff.”
Claims are said to cost 100 billion
GM expressed dismay at the strikes and announced that it would continue negotiations. A GM executive previously said the UAW lawsuit would cost GM $100 billion. That’s more than double the company’s market value and is unaffordable. Ford said the UAW’s latest proposals would double U.S. labor costs and make Ford unable to compete with Tesla and other non-union manufacturers. Stellantis said the company had been placed in “state of emergency.” Everything will be done to protect the group and its activities in North America. Stellantis left his meaning clear.
The conflict, which has lasted for several months, has been a political issue for a long time. US President Joe Biden, who is running for re-election next year, has called on both sides to reach an agreement and has spoken with the UAW and manufacturing management, according to his office. According to the Washington Post, the US government is preparing emergency aid to help small suppliers if they are faced with the strikes.