The president of the United Auto Workers union said Wednesday evening that the union and the Big Three automakers remain “very far apart” on the union’s key priorities for wage increases — and that the union is preparing to strike all three companies using new tactics after 11 days :59 p.m. Thursday.
“We will likely have to take action,” Sean Fine, the union’s president for five months, told a news conference.
Finn’s statements sparked a strong reaction from…
CEO Jim Farley, who defended his company’s counterproposals. That includes a “historically generous offer” that Farley said he brought to the negotiating table with Bill Ford, the company’s CEO, on Tuesday.
To a group of reporters, Farley He said The company did not receive a “real counter-offer” in return and was “concerned about the lack of feedback” during negotiations. “If there is a strike, it’s not because Ford didn’t put on a great show,” Farley said in a statement released by Ford on Wednesday.
Finn said the union would not strike all facilities at once. The UAW leader calls the new tactic a “stand-up” strike, in which local union branches will be asked to strike individual auto plants. That would create confusion for businesses and give the UAW additional leverage at the negotiating table, Fine said.
The contracts of the UAW’s 150,000 members expire around midnight Thursday with Ford Motor Company.
The union demanded a 40% wage increase, distributed over the next four-year contract, along with cost-of-living adjustments, job security measures, and retiree benefits.
“We are seeing action from companies,” Fine said. “But they are still not ready to agree on the types of raises that will compensate for inflation as well as decades of low wages. And their proposals do not reflect the enormous profits we have made for these companies.
The Big Three said they wanted to reach an agreement. GM said Wednesday it had made “additional strong offers,” while Stellantis, the maker of Chrysler and Jeep, said it remained focused on getting a “tentative agreement on the table” before Thursday night’s deadline.
Farley put it this way: “We should work creatively to solve difficult problems instead of planning strikes and PR events.”
The UAW president said the union’s goal is to reach a fair agreement, not to strike. But if there is no agreement, Fine said he will announce Thursday at 10 p.m. ET which local union branches will be asked to strike first, while others continue to operate.
“Show companies that you are ready to move forward at a moment’s notice,” Fine told union members Wednesday on the livestream.
This approach represents a departure from previous negotiations, when the union would sign a contract with one of the Big Three companies first and leverage it to obtain similar deals with the other two.
The UAW never initiated strike activity against the three automakers simultaneously. “We will strike the three companies – which is a historic first – initially in a limited number of targeted locations that we will announce,” Fine said.
Finn pointed out the possibility of launching a large-scale attack outside the targeted locations. He added, “The comprehensive strike is still in place.” “We are keeping all our options open.”
If things come to this, a comprehensive strike by UAW members could cost the American economy about $500 million per day, according to estimates by Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM. That’s a lot of money, but not enough to cause a recession, Brusuelas wrote this week.
Labor strikes are often avoided at the last minute, but Fine’s unusually aggressive stance adds new urgency to this year’s talks. In 2019, a GM strike lasted 40 days and cost the company an estimated $3.6 billion.
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