The UAW strike just got bigger. The union announced this afternoon that workers at 38 GM and Stellantis locations would join the walkout — and the pressure tactics are already working, with Ford making significant concessions at the bargaining table.
UAW workers picket outside of the General Motors parts facility on September 22, 2023 in Bolingbrook, Illinois. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)
The clock has ticked and tocked for two of the Big Three automakers. At noon, five thousand more members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) at thirty-eight parts distribution centers for Stellantis and General Motors (GM) walked off the job. The facilities are spread across twenty states.
They join thirteen thousand workers at assembly plants in Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri who have been out for a week — for a total of eighteen thousand Big Three auto workers on picket lines nationwide. (See a map of all struck facilities here.)
The escalation adds a new type of facility to the mix. Parts distribution centers (PDCs) supply after-sales spare parts and accessories to dealerships, a very profitable part of the companies’ business.
Red marks indicate UAW Big Three facilities on strike as of September 22 at noon. Live map can be found here.
Most facilities have between 50 and 150 workers, but some are much larger. According to GM, the Davison Road Processing Center in Burton, Michigan, has more than 1,200 employees and processes 9.9 million pieces per month, filling orders for domestic and international customers. GM has invested $168.5 million in the million-square-foot facility.
The three already-struck plants are assembly plants, where workers produce vehicles in the final step of auto manufacturing. They will remain on strike.
In a Facebook Live message today at 10:00 a.m., UAW president Shawn Fain announced the new strike targets and invited everyone to join workers on the picket lines, “from our friends and families all the way up to the president of the United States.” (Find advice on how to support picket lines here.)
Noting that the struck facilities are all over the country, he said, “We will be everywhere.” At noon, Fain will travel to the Stellantis Center Line National Parts Depot outside Detroit.
Making Headway at Ford
The UAW has dubbed its escalation strategy the “Stand-Up Strike,” since more workers can be asked to “stand up” as the strike grows, while others keep working under their expired contracts. The idea is to ramp up based on progress at the negotiating table, inflicting increasing financial pain on the automakers if they are intransigent in meeting members’ demands. “We are focused on moving companies at the bargaining table,” Fain said.
Those demands include ending tiers, converting temporary workers into permanent employees, restoring cost-of-living adjustments tied to inflation, winning back defined pension plans, providing retiree health care, and ensuring job security in the transition to electric vehicles, among others.
“We know the companies can afford to make things right,” Fain said. “We will shut down parts distribution until those companies come to their senses.”
Fain enumerated significant progress with Ford at the negotiating table. The company has agreed to reinstate the cost-of-living increase that was suspended in 2007. Workers will have the right to strike over plant closures while the contract is in effect. All temporary workers will be converted to full-time after ninety days.
And both Ford and GM have agreed to eliminate a wage tier — the one that includes, at Ford, Rawsonville Components and Sterling Axle, and at GM, Components Holdings and Customer Care and Aftersales.
Stellantis, however, is still insisting on maintaining a lower tier at its parts distribution arm, Mopar.
The strike at Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne will continue, but no additional Ford facilities are joining the strike today.
Unifor, which represents eighteen thousand autoworkers at the Big Three in Canada, reached a tentative agreement with Ford on Tuesday. Details of the agreement will be released to members Saturday morning, and they will have until 10:00 a.m. Sunday to vote whether to accept it. Unifor has pursued a more traditional, less combative approach to negotiations.
Eight and Skate
Fain told members still working, “Remember, it’s your right to refuse voluntary overtime.” The union has distributed information for those working under an expired contract, including the information that companies cannot legally make unilateral changes to wages and working conditions. “Report it if you see something change,” Fain said.
Workers in several plants report that they are refusing voluntary overtime. At Stellantis’s Mack Assembly in Detroit, UAW members are encouraging each other to “Eight and Skate.”
Already, shutdowns from the GM assembly plant in Missouri have created a shortage of stamped parts in Fairfax, Kansas, where union members have been laid off. Ford laid off six hundred workers at the Michigan Assembly Plant’s body and stamping departments (only the final assembly and paint departments had struck). The union said it will pay them strike benefits.
Ahead of the September 15 strike, the Big Three automakers scrambled to make contingency plans in case PDCs were struck. Ford attempted to train 1,200 salaried nonunion workers to work in PDCs, and Stellantis hired nonunion workers to stockpile parts at a facility in Belvidere, Illinois.
Voices From the Belleville PDC
At GM’s Willow Run Redistribution Center, a parts center in Belleville, Michigan, worker Terry Ward was in the plant working the first shift during Fain’s livestream. He said everybody was listening on their cell phones, the sound echoing around the plant. When the announcement was made, there were high fives and fist bumps.
“Work was a little slow after that,” he said.
Management couldn’t believe it, said another first-shift worker, Nicole Fuqua. She’s glad to see the union targeting the parts centers, because they generate so much profit for the automakers: “If you’re going to hurt ’em, you might as well hurt ’em where they’re getting the most money from.”
LaShawn Dawkins was happy that “we get to come out here and stand for what we want.”
Workers leaving the plant drove out down the long driveway. Then many parked their cars and came out to stand together, along with supporters from other locals who had come to stand with them.
“We have to support our GM brothers and sisters,” said Local 387 member Kayla Joseph, a fourth-generation Ford worker. She was relieved this morning when she heard about the progress at Ford, but “we still have a ways to go.”
Her grandparents’ pension was exactly the same as the pension her dad will get when he retires in two years, she said, showing how long retirees have gone without an increase.
“We’re all ready to walk at any moment,” she said. “We’re trusting the leadership. Shawn Fain is doing a good job delivering on his promises. He’s keeping everyone on their toes, including the workers.”
Angel Muniz came with his own bullhorn from Local 900, the Ford Bronco plant on strike now. “No bucks, no trucks!” he yelled. Yesterday he participated in a sixty-vehicle convoy down to the Jeep plant in Toledo to show solidarity. He said he has eleven-and-a-half years seniority, and he’s constantly in pain.
One of his main issues is health care after retirement, something that second-tier workers like him don’t currently receive. Even though he’s a veteran and has the VA, he said he wants it for other people.
Muniz said he had voted for ex-president Ray Curry, the candidate of the union’s former ruling Administration Caucus, “but in the end I’m happy my guy didn’t win the election. Finally we’ve got a leadership with teeth.”
Jane Slaughter contributed reporting.Original post