Autoworkers prepare for a potential strike amid negotiations

Posted at 5:56 PM, Aug 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-16 18:24:50-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Just a few weeks after the United Auto Workers union presented the Big Three with their demands, workers are bracing for a potential strike.

The UAW has been in talks with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis since mid-July working to secure a 40% raise in pay, restoration of pensions for newer hires, cost-of-living increases and an end to wage tiers, among other things.

Their current contract is set to end on Sept. 14. The UAW says they do not intend to extend their contract past that date.

The members are set to vote on strike authorizations next week. While the vote is routine, UAW President Shawn Fain says the vote shows the strength of the union.

"I think it’s avoidable but if the parties are not willing to be flexible about how they get to certain points, then I think a strike becomes inevitable," said professor Marick Masters with Wayne State University.

Masters has a background in labor and labor management relations. He says over the years, he's written extensively on the auto industry and the UAW.

Masters says if a 40-day strike were to occur, he estimates the automakers will lose billions in revenue while the UAW would be on the hook to pay its members millions of dollars in strike pay.

He says both sides will have to make significant compromises to strike a deal.

"An agreement will involve getting more cash into the workers hands and that requires looking at compensation, base pay, profit sharing, performance benefit," said Masters. "I think it is only remotely possible that the union would get anything it wants in terms of restoring retiree benefits or COLA, cost of living."

While the future is uncertain, workers like Wanda Stevenson say it’s an exciting time.

"We’re ready. I’ve saved up all my money. I can’t wait. I’m excited. I really am excited. We finally got a union that’s willing to fight," said Stevenson. "For the first time, I might be apart of something that will make a difference because right now, Stellantis is not playing fair."

Stevenson says for her this is about securing a better future.

"We’re sticking together we’re not just going to accept anything. We have families. We have lives. We want to be able to retire. We want to be able to pay our rent, our mortgage. We want to be able to buy cars," said Stevenson. "If we don’t buckle down we don’t have a future."