UAW members sign up for strike shifts ahead of contract expiration

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Posted at 4:35 PM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 17:19:19-04

WARREN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Wednesday morning, dozens of United Auto Workers (UAW) signed up for strike shifts at a local UAW post in Warren ahead of a contract expiration.

The contract is set to expire Thursday, September 14 at 11:59 p.m. The UAW, Ford, Stellantis and General Motors have been working to find a happy medium on wages and benefits before the contract runs out to avoid a strike.

While the two sides have made progress, the UAW has not accepted any offers yet meaning a strike is still possible.

"It’s been quite a while since we’ve had any incentives and a lot of guys they haven’t had a raise in several years," said Daron Palmer who works at Stellantis.

Palmer says he is ready if a union leaders call a strike Thursday evening, but he remains hopeful they'll be able to strike a deal instead.

"It’s scary. I don’t think anybody really wants to strike. We’d like to keep working and being as productive as possible. The bottom line is getting the cars out there," said Palmer.

Jason Fontella was one of the workers UAW local 412 in Warren on Wednesday preparing for a potential strike. Fontella says for him, this is about his future.

"The world has changed so quickly in the last 10 years and it’s accelerated since 2020. We need to be able to keep up with inflation, everything like that," said Fontella. "We’ve had minimal raises whereas if you look at CEO compensation from 1970 to today, it’s up like 350%. The workers compensation is up 25% and that’s not right. We need a little more equity. We need the middle class back."

7 Action News reached out to all three automakers and received the following response from Stellantis:

As we approach the expiration of our contract with the UAW, I wanted to give you an update on where we are with negotiations.

Since Monday, we have continued to meet with the UAW subcommittees to resolve outstanding issues, proof that we can work together to find solutions on tough subjects. We also passed our second economic offer as promised as well as a third offer yesterday. We’re awaiting their response to this latest offer. At this time, we’re withholding details out of respect for the bargaining process.

On behalf of the entire Stellantis leadership team, I want to thank our Bargaining team for continuing to bring their energy and passion to these discussions. I know that they continue to approach each discussion with the seriousness it deserves and a commitment to reaching a fair agreement that responsibly addresses the concerns of our represented employees and better positions Stellantis to meet the challenges of the U.S. market.

Our focus remains on bargaining in good faith to have a tentative agreement on the table before tomorrow’s deadline. The future for our represented employees and their families deserves nothing less.

-Tobin Williams
Senior Vice President

A representative from General Motors also responded to a request for comment, referring media to their Sept. 7th offer and stating the following:

GM and UAW bargaining teams have been working hard to continue to address the issues most important to our team members. Our goal remains the same – to achieve an agreement that rewards our team members while allowing us to pursue our growth strategy through continued investment in our U.S. manufacturing operations and American jobs.

-Tara Stewart Kuhnen
General Motors

Representatives at Ford were not immediately available to respond.

"It’s going to affect a lot of businesses and it’s going to affect and down trickle to a lot of companies with unions. We need this. We need the increase for these people," added Robert Taylor who also works at Stellantis.

The Associated Press is now reporting the union may be looking to target a small number of plants run by each Detroit automaker if no deal is reached before the deadline.

"If they strike strategically certain component facilities or assembly facilities that produce profitable products and assemble them, (automakers) might feel the pressure and succumb to that pressure,"said Wayne State University professor Marick Masters.

Masters says targeting specific facilities would allow the union to turn up the pressure if a strike prolongs. He says it would also allow the union to preserve its strike fund which is used to pay $500/weekly stipends to workers who have walked off the job during a strike period. The $825 million fund would run dry in less than 11 weeks if all workers went on strike at the same time.

However, Masters says a targeted strike plan by the U-A-W could lead to a counter move by the automaker like the closure of some facilities.

"They’re going to have to move rapidly on key issues which would give them the momentum to close the gap on other issues," said Masters. "There’s a lot of work to be done but they can get it done."