The CEOs of General Motors (GM) and Ford have criticized the United Auto Workers (UAW) leaders, marking an escalation in the strike that has been ongoing for three weeks. UAW chief Shawn Fain responded to the criticism, accusing the CEOs of lacking a genuine intention to reach an agreement. The strike has now affected new plants in Chicago and Lansing, Michigan. The CEOs expressed frustration with the pace of negotiations, with Ford CEO Jim Farley accusing the UAW of holding a deal “hostage” over a dispute regarding future electric vehicle battery plants. However, the UAW countered that neither CEO had attended bargaining meetings in the past week.
The UAW and the automakers remain far apart on key economic issues, and the CEOs’ statements indicate that a resolution is unlikely to be reached soon. Fain has demanded 40% pay hikes over a four-year contract, which has been supported by President Joe Biden. However, the companies have only offered pay hikes of about 20%. The CEOs accused Fain of dragging workers into an unnecessary strike, while Fain has maintained that differences with Ford include retirement benefits and job guarantees. The strike has affected a total of 25,000 workers, or approximately 17% of the union’s members at the three automakers.
Rather than a mass walkout, the UAW has strategically chosen to escalate the strike by targeting specific plants, using reprieves from expansions of work stoppages to encourage different automakers. Workers have now walked out of the Ford assembly plant in Chicago and the GM plant in Lansing. Farley warned that the expanded walkouts at Ford threatened thousands of supplier jobs and that many suppliers were on the brink of collapse due to the ongoing strike. Farley also stated that the decision to expand the walkouts was based on the fate of electric vehicle battery plants, which Ford is reconsidering due to uncertainty over labor costs. The UAW is demanding that those workers be represented by the union and paid the highest-tier wages. Both GM and Stellantis, which was spared an additional walkout, expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in negotiations, while Fain stated that progress had been made with Stellantis regarding cost of living allowances and the right to strike over product commitments and plant closures. Talks are ongoing at all three companies.