UAW strikes the Big Three automakers all at once


For the first time in history, members of United Auto Workers are on strike at all three big U.S. automakers. Workers are striking because highly profitable Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (formerly Fiat/Chrysler) are refusing union demands — including an end to the hated two-tier pay and benefit structure, and a 36% pay increase over four years. The strike began Sept. 15 at auto assembly plants in Missouri, Ohio, and Michigan. It idled one plant for each company, totaling 12,700 workers. A week later, it expanded to 5,600 more workers at 38 GM and Stellantis parts distribution centers in 20 states — including a Stellantis parts warehouse at 10030 SW Allen Blvd. in Beaverton, Oregon, that employs 43 members of UAW Local 492. The strike expanded again Sept. 29, shutting a GM plant in Lansing and a Ford plant in Chicago.

[pullquote]“This battle, it’s a battle of the working class against the rich. Nobody can win this fight for us. Our greatest hope and our only hope is with each other, standing together.” —UAW president Shawn Fain[/pullquote]UAW is calling its escalation strategy the “Stand Up Strike,” a strike that grows over time, giving negotiators maximum leverage and flexibility.

“The Stand Up Strike is our generation’s answer to the sit down strike of the 1930s,” UAW President Shawn Fain told members via Facebook Live on the eve of the strike. “It is long past time to stand up for the working class, to stand up for our communities, and to stand up against unchecked corporate greed.”

In Beaverton, Local 492 President Robert Perdue said union members and the public have been helping keep strikers’ spirits up by walking the picket line with them and bringing food, beverages, and supplies.

“People understand the cause that we’re out there for,” Perdue said.

FAIR PAY NOW United Auto Workers Local 492 member Rito Martinez walked off the job Sept. 22 at the Chrysler (Stellantis) parts center in Beaverton.

The Beaverton strikers are maintaining a picket line 24/7 outside the Stellantis warehouse, keeping warm at night with propane heaters.

UAW strikers in Belleville, Michigan, got a visit by President Joe Biden Sept. 26. It was the first time in U.S, history that a sitting president showed up on a strike picket line.

“You guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile industry back in 2008 and before,” Biden said during the visit. “You made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot. And the companies were in trouble. But now they’re doing incredibly well. And guess what?  You should be doing incredibly well too.”

Automakers are offering raises of up to 21% over four years. They argue that UAW’s proposed 36% increase over that period would make them uncompetitive. But UAW points out that in the last four years, the Big Three’s average car prices have risen 34%, auto CEO pay has risen 40%, and North American profits have risen 65%. With labor making up just 4% to 5% of the cost of a vehicle, the Big Three could literally double workers’ wages and still be highly profitable, UAW says.

On Oct. 2, UAW announced that a new poll shows an overwhelming 78% of Americans support the strikers in their struggle with the companies, and that support has increased since the strike began. The poll results come from a nationwide survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted Sept. 21-25 by Navigator Research.

“We are working for the rights of the average American worker who has been taken advantage of by big corporations,” said Beaverton striker Rich Weber, who transferred to Portland after Stellantis closed the Illinois auto plant where he worked. “We are strong, we are united, and we aren’t going anywhere.’”

Mallory Gruben also contributed to this report.


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