UAW President warns strike escalation could come “any time”

October 13, 2023

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain on Friday warned that union workers were prepared to escalate the UAW’s month-long strike “at any time.”  

Referring to a “fight for justice with the Big Three” automakers—Ford, General Motors and Stellantis—Fain said during what’s become a weekly livestream address, “We’re entering a new phase of this fight, and it demands a new approach. We’re done waiting until Fridays to escalate our strike. Today, we’re not announcing expansion of our strike, but we are prepared at any time to call on more locals to stand up and walk out.”

In fact, this past Wednesday the strike did escalate, to include a walkout by at Ford’s largest factory, where F-Series trucks and SUVs are built in Louisville, Kentucky.

More UAW members were also threatening Jeep maker Stellantis Thursday morning. Union negotiators met with Stellantis reps later Thursday following the Ford plant walkout.

The strike against the Big Three automakers began at midnight September 15 when contract agreements to cover the union’s 145,000 members could not be reached. 

Over the past month, the UAW has been targeting a small number of plants from each company rather than undertaking a nationwide walkout of all union members at the same time.

On Monday UAW members at Mack Trucks, which is owned by Volvo, also joined the walkout.

The Louisville workers’ walkout at Ford brings UAW’s total number of striking workers to about 34,000, or roughly 23% of the union’s members.

During last Friday’s livestream, Fain announced an agreement with GM to bring all General Motors’ electric vehicle (EV) battery plants under the union’s national master agreement, but he added that negotiators were continuing to work to secure deals on other sticking points, including wage increases and retirement security. 

In a statement, Ford called the Louisville walkout a “grossly irresponsible” expansion of the strike. The company has said it has made strong wage and benefit offers to the UAW, adding that the latest move puts about a dozen other Ford facilities at risk, as well as parts supply plants that together employ over 100,000 people.

On a Thursday afternoon conference call, a top Ford Motors executive, Kumar Galhotra, said, “On the economics, I would say, yes, we have reached our limit….We’ve actually stretched ourselves to get to this point.”

From 2013 to 2022, profits at the Big Three automakers increased 92%, totaling $250 billion dollars. The companies expect to add yet another $32 billion in profits to their totals in 2023, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Fain in this Friday’s address cautioned, “Unless employers start coming to their senses, unless we start to see real gains in our contracts that match the gains we’ve seen on Wall Street, then I predict there are going to be a lot more strikes on the horizon.”

PHOTO: Shawn Fain UAW livestream Friday

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