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The United Auto Workers plan to expand their strike against Detroit automakers Friday unless there is “serious progress” at the bargaining table in the union’s dispute over wages, its leader said.
UAW President Shawn Fain said Monday that automakers are responsible for delays in negotiations and that the union will not stand by “while they drag this out.”
“We don’t wait around, and we don’t mess around,” he said.
The move would expand industrial action beyond the 13,000 workers at three factories – run by Ford, General Motors and Stellantis – who went on strike last Friday. It was the first time in its history that UAW workers at all three automakers left the factories at the same time.
The UAW is demanding higher wages for nearly 150,000 members who work at the three companies. The campaign is part of a broader fight to protect workers through the transition to clean energy and electric vehicles, which the union says could cost 35,000 jobs.
The threat of a US escalation came as Ford faced the possibility of a strike in Canada, with 5,700 workers threatening to walk out of the company’s Canadian factories when their contracts expired at midnight on Monday.
Lana Payne, president of Unifor, the union that represents about 18,000 workers at Canada’s three major automakers, said discussions with Ford had been “constructive” but that not enough progress had been made on priorities such as pensions and pay increases.
The union said negotiations had been extended for a further 24 hours, adding that it had “received a substantial offer from the employer minutes before the election”. [midnight] deadline and negotiations continue all night.” It advised members to “maintain the willingness to strike.”
Unifor’s members are spread across parts facilities, a Ford Ontario assembly plant that makes the Edge crossover and the Lincoln Nautilus luxury SUV, and two plants just beyond the Detroit River that divides the U.S. and Canada that make engines for the Mustang and the the company’s best-selling F-Series trucks.
“This is as serious as it gets,” Payne added. “We have a small but very important footprint in Ford North America, and this is our influence, and we will use it.”
Ford did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Unlike the UAW, which acquired all three automakers at once, Unifor has taken a more traditional approach to negotiations in the North American auto industry. Unifor chose Ford as the company to target first and, after signing a contract with the company, plans to try to win similar contracts with GM and Stellantis.
Payne said last month, when the union began negotiations with Ford, that members’ expectations were “high.” The union wants to protect pensions, secure “substantial” wage increases and secure more investment in Canadian factories.
“Profits have gone up and so has the cost of living,” she told reporters last month. “Workers have shown time and time again that they are willing to fight – and strike if necessary – to get their demands met. This is the moment we are in. And no one, no one, should underestimate it.”
The union is also demanding business support for workers as the industry transitions to electric vehicles, a concern the UAW shares.
Tesla, the leader in electric vehicle sales, has fired workers who have tried to organize at its U.S. factories. EV batteries that the Detroit automakers will make will come from joint ventures with South Korean manufacturers that employ non-union workers.
“We insist that every EV and EV-related job is a good union job,” Payne said, “with the same rights and working conditions as autoworkers enjoy today.”