September 16, 2023 UAW strike news

By Robert Ilich, CNN

Updated 6:44 PM ET, Sat September 16, 2023
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11:05 a.m. ET, September 16, 2023

UAW president says 80% of union demands have been left off proposals from Big 3 automakers

From CNN's Rob Frehse

UAW President Shawn Fain speaks during a rally on September 15, in Detroit, Michigan.
UAW President Shawn Fain speaks during a rally on September 15, in Detroit, Michigan. Matthew Hatcher/AFP/Getty Images

Proposals from the Big Three automakers haven’t addressed 80% of the striking United Auto Workers members' demands, UAW President Shawn Fain said following a rally on Friday.

“Eighty percent of our demands, 80% of our member demands were left off of their proposals. They fall way short of where they need to be,” Fain said.

The union went on strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis on Friday, the first time in its history that it has struck all three of America's unionized automakers at the same time.

Fain said the automakers have had a decade of excessive profits but union members have fallen further and further behind during that time.

Strikes at more plants are possible, Fain added, citing the ongoing negotiations.

Fain said:

It could be in a day, it could be in a week, it just depends on how things progress or don’t progress.

What about strike pay? CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich told Fain that Ford announced they will lay off 600 workers and GM will idle about 2,000 workers starting next week. Yurkevich asked if they will get strike pay, given some of those individuals are not eligible for supplemental pay from the companies — and some may not be eligible for unemployment, either.

“Our members are going to be taken care of, no matter what happens,” Fain said. “We have their back and they have our back.”

Yurkevich pressed for more details on how, financially, the workers would be taken care of, but Fain didn’t provide an answer.

The Biden administration: President Joe Biden on Friday issued a strong statement of support for UAW workers in brief remarks from the White House but stopped short of explicitly endorsing their decision to strike.

Fain was asked if the Biden administration would help or hurt the union’s cause.

“I’m not worried about the Biden administration right now, this is our job, this is our fight,” he said.

“We have been very clear about our demands and if the companies don’t come to the pump and deliver for these members and give them their fair share of economic and social justice, we’ll amp up the pressure, we’ll take more plants out.”

The union has made ambitious demands in wages, benefits and job protections.

With all three automakers reporting record or near-record profits, the union says it is trying to recapture many benefits workers gave up more than a decade ago when the companies were on the brink of bankruptcy.

CNN’s Kate Trafecante and Maria Sole Campinoti contributed reporting to this post.

8:37 a.m. ET, September 16, 2023

Just catching up on the UAW strike? Here's what you need to know

From CNN's Chris Isidore, Vanessa Yurkevich and Elisabeth Buchwald

Striking United Auto Worker Diana Osborne holds a strike sign outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, U.S. September 15, 2023.
Striking United Auto Worker Diana Osborne holds a strike sign outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, U.S. September 15, 2023. Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Time has run out to avert a strike at America’s unionized automakers.

The United Auto Workers contracts expired at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday. The contracts covered 145,000 UAW members at the three companies: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, which builds vehicles under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler brands for North America.

With no deal reached by the contract expiration, the union said it has started targeted strikes against three facilities – one at each company.

Here’s what to know now that the strike has begun:

Where have workers walked off the job?

UAW President Shawn Fain announced that workers at a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, would go on strike. Workers walked off the job there, picketing outside the plants Friday morning.

It might not take much to virtually shut down the output from all the companies. They operate a complex network of plants that depend on getting parts from different facilities.

Slowing or stopping the production of a few engine or transmission plants at each company could be as effective at stopping operations as a full strike at all plants, according to industry experts.

Key numbers motivating the UAW members:

$32.32: The hourly wage for most of the UAW members at GM, Ford and Stellantis 

$18: The starting wage of a UAW worker 

$15: The starting wage for temporary workers

Those wages haven't adjusted for inflation, which rose significantly over the past two years.

Will the automakers negotiate?

Based on their latest reports, Ford and GM are now offering a 20% raise during the life of the contract, and Stellantis is offering 17.5%. The union started with a demand for an immediate 20%, and four additional raises of 5% each over the course of a four-year deal.

GM CEO Mary Barra sent a letter to employees Thursday saying the company’s latest offer now includes a 20% raise, with an immediate 10% pay hike. The lower-paid temporary employees would get $20 an hour, which represents at 20% raise from current $16.67 an hour they receive.

Ford CEO Jim Farley told CNN that an offer from Ford of a 20% raise over the life of the contract is the most lucrative offer the company has made to the union in the 80 years it has been there. But he said meeting the union’s demands of close to a 40% raise, along with a four-day work week and other benefit improvements, would have been unaffordable.

Farley blamed the union for the lack of progress in negotiations. But the union has blamed the companies for waiting until the end of August or early September to make their first counteroffers.

Anger is mounting with Stellantis:

Stellantis is making greater use of lower-paid temporary workers than the other automakers. Eliminating or at least limiting use of temporary workers is a major issue for the union.

And there is still more anger at Stellantis after former executives of the company were caught giving bribes to former union officials, says Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations school in Buffalo.

Many of the members who are angry at the corruption scandal that resulted in two recent UAW presidents going to prison are angry with Stellantis as well.

8:30 a.m. ET, September 16, 2023

The autoworkers' strike is confusing. That's by design

From CNN's Chris Isidore and Kayla Tausche

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain joins UAW members as they go on strike at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant on September 15 in Wayne, Michigan. 
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain joins UAW members as they go on strike at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant on September 15 in Wayne, Michigan.  Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

UAW President Shawn Fain has become the X factor in the striking autoworkers’ pursuit of increased pay and benefits, injecting a level of chaos into negotiations that neither the automakers nor the White House predicted or quite know how to manage.

That confusion is purposeful.

The UAW on Friday struck at just three plants, one at each of the Big Three automakers. None of the plants is particularly crucial to the automakers’ operations, surprising industry insiders – even experts who predicted the UAW would implement a targeted strike.

Automakers have lambasted the UAW chief, calling the union’s demands unreasonable. Ford CEO Jim Farley on Thursday told CNN that the union’s call for a 40% pay raise and a 32-hour, four-day work week would bankrupt the company. GM CEO Mary Barra on Friday said the union is “asking for more than the company made,” calling the demands unrealistic. And GM and Stellantis lashed out at Fain late last month for his surprising tactic of filing unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing GM and Stellantis of not bargaining in good faith.

Fain told union members Thursday that the union’s strike strategy “will keep the companies guessing” and give union negotiators “maximum leverage” when they return to the bargaining table.

Just as Fain’s hefty demands and unique strike method were designed to maximize leverage with the automakers, his lack of deference to the White House added pressure on pro-union President Joe Biden.

Fain said the union would withhold its endorsement of Biden. Although Fain has at times praised Biden, he has also criticized the president for failing to do enough to help the autoworkers in their cause. The UAW routinely supports Democratic presidential candidates, and the president – who is fighting low approval ratings ahead of the 2024 campaign season – could use all the support he can get.

The unpredictable and unknown commodity in Fain has created a “uniquely challenging” predicament for the Biden administration, according to three sources briefed regularly on the discussions, who requested anonymity to describe sensitive conversations during ongoing negotiations.

Read more about Fain and his strategy here.

8:29 a.m. ET, September 16, 2023

In his first remarks, Biden voiced support for UAW workers but didn't explicitly endorse the strike

From CNN's Kyle Feldscher

President Joe Biden speaks about the auto workers strike from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Friday.
President Joe Biden speaks about the auto workers strike from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Friday. Susan Walsh/AP

President Joe Biden on Friday issued a strong statement of support for UAW workers in brief remarks from the White House but stopped short of explicitly endorsing their decision to strike.

Biden, who frequently refers to himself as the most pro-union president in history, called on the Big Three auto companies to fairly share record profits with their employees.

“Auto companies have seen record profits, including in the last few years, because of the extraordinary skill and sacrifices of UAW workers,” Biden said. “But those record profits have not been shared fairly, in my view, with those workers.”

The president has been walking a fine line in recent weeks over the negotiations between autoworkers and the American companies. The strike is sure to affect the nation’s economy and the president has made his economic record central to his reelection message. However, he has also traditionally relied on the backing of union workers as a key part of his political coalition. Crucially, the UAW has withheld its endorsement of the president as leadership waits to see how he handles the situation.

It was against this backdrop that Biden gave a firmly pro-worker speech at the White House on Friday, noting a recent report done by his administration that argued unions “raise standards across the workplace and entire industries.”

“No one wants a strike, but I respect workers’ right to use their options under the collective bargaining system,” Biden said.