UAW ‘changes the rules’ as strike drags on, tells members to prepare for walkouts at any time

By: - October 13, 2023 1:01 pm

UAW President Shawn Fain talks with members of the UAW picket line in Delta Township, Michigan on September 29, 2023. (Photo by Anna Liz Nichols/Michigan Advance)

Four weeks into the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the Detroit Three automakers, union President Shawn Fain announced in a livestream that the union would no longer wait until Fridays to expand its strike to new plants.

“We’re entering a new phase of this fight, and it demands a new approach,” Fain said Friday.

While Fain did not call for additional strikes against General Motors, Ford or Stellantis during the livestream, he said the UAW was prepared to call only more local unions to walk out at any time.

“When I tell all you members to be ready to stand up, I mean it. We’re not waiting until Fridays anymore,” Fain said.

About 8,700 workers from Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant were called to join the strike Wednesday night, with Fain saying Ford “hasn’t gotten the message” in contract negotiations.

During the stream, Fain said the company offered them the same deal the union had rejected two weeks ago, after telling the union there was more money that could be offered.

“At that point, I’d said, ‘That’s all you have for us? Our members’ lives and my handshake are worth more than that. You just cost yourself Kentucky truck plant.’…We didn’t wait ‘til Friday and we didn’t wait a minute,” Fain said.

Ford Vice President of Communications Mark Truby issued a statement calling the decision to call a strike at the company’s largest plant “grossly irresponsible but unsurprising.”

Fain criticized Ford’s statement during the stream.

“Ford made a lot of noise after we took out Kentucky truck plant. As the saying goes, a hit dog will holler,” Fain said.

“They admitted that Kentucky Truck generates $25 billion in revenue a year, that’s $48,000 a minute. Our labor at Kentucky truck generates more revenue each minute than thousands of our members make in a year,” Fain said.

Fain also accused Ford of waiting until Fridays to make progress on bargaining.

Ford thought they could sit back and not make further progress in bargaining because they thought they had the best deal on the table. Ford thought they could wait until Friday morning and then just make a better offer,” Fain said.

“They stopped being interested in reaching a fair deal now and only became interested in gaming our system of announcing strike expansions on Friday. They thought they figured out the so-called rules of the game, so we changed the rules. And now there’s only one rule: Pony up,” Fain said.

Fain said the UAW is continuing to look for a deal.

“I wish I had more updates or good news for all of you out of GM or Stellantis, but the fact is, we’re still bargaining hard with both of those companies. And they’re now on notice that we’re entering a new phase in this fight,” Fain said.

Fain also addressed criticism that he was setting UAW members too high.

“I want to be clear on this point. I didn’t raise members’ expectations. Our broken economy is what’s raising our members’ expectations. And our members are right to be angry. … Income inequality in the United States has now risen to heights not seen since the Great Depression. So I’m not the cause of raised expectations. The cause is overflowing corporate bank accounts,” Fain said.

Unless employers come to their senses and begin offering contracts that match gains on Wall Street, there will be more strikes on the horizon, Fain predicted.

There’s been a flurry of labor actions this fall.

More than 1,000 UAW Local 2500 members who work at Blue Cross Blue Shield went on strike last month. The union represents the company’s customer service call center department and other workers.

Nearly 4,000 workers in the Detroit Casino Council are preparing for a strike, almost 1,000 of whom are UAW members, Fain said.

Another 1,100 UAW members working at General Dynamics in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, voted 97% in favor of authorizing a strike. Their contract expires on Oct. 22.

Additionally, Mack Truck workers voted down a tentative agreement, seeking better wages, job security and reinstatement of cost of living increases. The strike involves 4,000 UAW workers across three states.

“Our union is done playing defense. We’re going on offense. We’re done aiming low and settling lower. It’s time we started aiming high and seeing how close we can get to total economic and social justice,” Fain said.

“What we win isn’t up to me. It isn’t up to your executive board. It isn’t up to your local president or the president of the United States. What we win, it’s up to us — all of us,” Fain said.

This story is republished from Michigan Advance, a sister publication of Kentucky Lantern and part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. 

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Kyle Davidson
Kyle Davidson

Kyle Davidson covers state government alongside health care, business and the environment. A graduate of Michigan State University, Kyle studied journalism and political science. He previously covered community events, breaking news, state policy and the environment for outlets including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.