The United Auto Workers officially went on strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis on Friday after failing to secure a last-minute deal before a midnight deadline, an unprecedented stoppage that could spell major disruption for the industry giants that have seen profits soar in recent years.
The strike will initially target one plant at each of the Big Three automakers and will not involve all of the union’s nearly 150,000 members walking out at once.
Walkouts have started at a General Motors plant in Missouri, a Stellantis plant in Ohio and a Ford plant in Michigan.
Collectively, just under 13,000 workers are striking at the three plants.
UAW described the fight as “our generation’s defining moment” for the “entire working class,” not just the Big Three.
The targeted walkout is part of a “new approach” to striking dubbed the “Stand Up Strike” that the union says “gives us maximum leverage and maximum flexibility in our fight to win a fair contract.”
More workers may be called on to join the strike as time goes on, UAW said.
$5.4 billion. That’s how much Moody’s Analytics estimates each of the Big Three automakers could lose from halted production over the duration of a six-week strike, roughly the same amount it said General Motors lost during a 40-day strike in 2019. All three of the companies could offset those losses with supplies of “ample cash and borrowing capacity,” Moody’s said, though it warned a prolonged strike could hamper the automakers’ pushes toward producing electric vehicles, which all three have embraced in recent years as the EV market skyrockets.
UAW union members voted overwhelmingly last month to authorize the strike, with roughly 97% of union members at the Big Three automakers supporting the measure under the grounds that the companies “refuse to reach a fair deal.” Under the authorization vote, the union warned it could call for the strike once the current contract expires at midnight on September 14. Talks of the strike came nearly four years to the day after union members voted by a wide margin in favor of another strike at GM, which lasted for 40 days and which GM estimated cost it between $3.8 billion and $4 billion after nearly 48,000 employees stopped working. That strike ended when union members approved the current four-year labor deal.
All three companies have reduced their headcounts and offered employees buyouts over the past year: Ford conducted a round of cuts in June affecting nearly 1,000 employees, the Wall Street Journal reported, though the company told Forbes at the time it was merely adjusting its staffing levels around “skills and expertise,” and was hiring “in key areas.” Last month, GM announced plans to cut 940 positions this fall as it closes an information technology center in Arizona. GM also offered a large-scale buyout program to employees, leading to 5,000 workers leaving, while Stellantis offered buyouts to more than 33,000 employees in the U.S.
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