About 13,000 U.S. auto workers stopped making vehicles and went on strike Friday after their leaders couldn’t bridge a giant gap between union demands in contract talks and what Detroit’s three automakers are willing to pay.
It was the first time in the United Auto Workers union’s 88-year history that it walked out on all three companies simultaneously as four-year contracts expired at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
Here’s where each side currently stands.
The union is demanding a 36% boost in pay. The union initially started out demanding 40% raises over the life of a four-year contract, or 46% when compounded annually.
In addition to general wage increases, the union is seeking restoration of cost-of-living pay raises, an end to varying tiers of wages for factory jobs, a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay, the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires who now receive only 401(k)-style retirement plans, pension increases for retirees and other items.
Members of the United Auto Workers union began picketing at a General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Ford factory in Wayne, Michigan, near Detroit; and a Stellantis Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio.
While the union is currently demanding a 36% boost in pay, the automakers, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, have countered with offers that are roughly half of that increase.
Ford chief Jim Farley says his company has made a generous wage offer, eliminated wage tiers, restored cost of living pay increases and increased vacation time. The union disputes his contention that tiers were ended.
On Wednesday, Fain said the companies upped their wage offers, but he still called them inadequate. Ford offered 20% over 4½ years, while GM was at 18% for four years and Stellantis was at 17.5%. The raises barely make up for what he described as minimal raises of the past. In a 2019 agreement the union got 6% pay raises over four years with lump sums in some years as well as profit-sharing checks.
The offers from all three automakers in regard to cost-of-living adjustments are deficient, Fain said, providing little or no protection against inflation.
The companies rejected pay raises for retirees who haven’t receive one in over a decade, Fain said, and they are seeking concessions in annual profit-sharing checks, which often are more than $10,000.
Stellantis said it gave the union a third wage-and-benefit offer and is waiting for a response.