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Strike Looms For UAW And The Big Three On Contract Deadline Day

Also, Teamsters say they won't deliver Big Three vehicles during a strike, and President Biden wants round-the-clock talks between UAW and automakers.

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United Auto Workers members walk in the Labor Day parade in Detroit on Sept. 4, 2023. The union is threatening to strike any automaker that hasn't reached an agreement by the time contracts expire on Sept. 14.
Photo: Paul Sancya (AP)

Good morning! It’s Thursday, September 14, 2023, and this is The Morning Shift, your daily roundup of the top automotive headlines from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: Less Than A Day To Go For An Agreement

The UAW says it plans to strike at certain Detroit Three plants starting Friday, September 15, unless a new agreement can be put in place by 11:59 p.m. tonight. That’s what President Shawn Fain is saying, at least, while two of the three automakers say they haven’t gotten responses from the union to their latest offers.


During a Facebook live stream on the Wednesday, Fain reportedly called proposals giving raises of up to 20 percent “insulting” and said the union would begin announcing the first plants to be tarted by 10 p.m. tonight. He called the strategy, which the UAW has never used against all three automakers at the same time, a “stand-up strike,” a callback to sit-down strikes earlier days of the union.

“The stand-up strike will keep the companies guessing,” Fain reportedly said during the livestream. “It’s going to rely on discipline, organization, and creativity. I do believe the beauty of the stand-up strike is that it provides us the maximum flexibility moving forward to have the most effective means of striking that we can put forth to get the best result for our membership.” From Automotive News:

Fain said a full-on strike against every plant also was still possible.

Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler parent Stellantis, in separate statements Wednesday evening, said the UAW had not responded to offers they presented Tuesday before Fain criticized them on his broadcast. Ford CEO Jim Farley said the company had put four “increasingly generous” offers on the table since Aug. 29 and had yet to receive “any genuine counteroffer.”


“There’s still time left,” Farley said. “Whether there’s room in there or not, we won’t know if we don’t get feedback. We don’t understand why we can’t get feedback to make this deal to forge the future.”

Asked if the UAW was negotiating in bad faith, Farley asked rhetorically: “How can you negotiate if you don’t get a well considered, genuine counteroffer?”

General Motors said in its own statement that it has submitted multiple “strong offers.”


On the live stream, Fain reportedly revealed details of the automakers’ most recent proposals. They include wage increases of 20 percent from Ford, 18 percent from GM, and 17.5 percent from Stellantis. All three would also cut the time it takes new hires to earn top wages in half to just four years.

The companies differ on the temporary worker issue, according to the union. Fain said Ford is offering to convert all current temps with 90 days of continuous service into full-time status. GM, he said, was offering “inadequate benefits, no profit-sharing and a meager wage increase,” while Stellantis had a similar offer to GM with “no path to full-time” status.

Regarding cost-of-living adjustments, the union said Ford was willing to restore an old COLA formula but noted it would offer wage protection of “less than $1 over the next four and a half years.” He said GM and Stellantis were offering a formula that would provide zero wage protection over the course of the next contract.

He also said the profit-sharing formulas offered by the companies would be less generous than they are today.

The three companies still differ on the issue of temporary workers. Fain apparently said Ford is offering to convert all current temps within 90 days of continuous service into full-time status. GM is offering “inadequate benefits” and Stellantis has “no path to full-time” status.

Regarding cost-of-living adjustments, the union said Ford was willing to restore an old COLA formula but noted it would offer wage protection of “less than $1 over the next four and a half years.” He said GM and Stellantis were offering a formula that would provide zero wage protection over the course of the next contract.

He also said the profit-sharing formulas offered by the companies would be less generous than they are today.

He said all three continue to reject all of the union’s “job security,” “work-life balance” and retiree priorities. The job security priorities include reinstating a jobs bank that would continue to pay workers when they’re laid off, and the work-life balance proposal calls for a four-day work week at five days’ worth of pay.


“We’re making progress at each of the three negotiating tables, but we’re still very far apart on our key priorities,” Fain said, according to Auto News. “We do not yet have offers on the table that reflect the sacrifice and contributions our members have made to these companies.”

He argued that the three automakers could “double our wages and still be profitable, and he framed the push for better contracts as between the working class and the rich.


“These corporations are mountains,” Fain reportedly said. “Together we can make these mountains move.”

2nd Gear: Teamsters Back Up UAW, Won’t Deliver Cars

Truck drivers who haul vehicles for the Detroit Three are planning to stand with UAW members if they go on strike at 11:59 p.m. tonight. That means they will not be delivering vehicles for Ford, GM, or Stellantis.


“We are 100 percent supportive of UAW workers and Shawn Fain’s positions,” Kevin Moore, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 299 president, reportedly said. “Our Teamsters will not cross strike lines.

Moore represents about 5,000 Teamster members, and most of them drive freight car haulers. He spoke with Fain during Detroit’s Labor Day parade, and his wife is a UAW. member.


“I understand their struggles and their issues. I understand the membership of the UAW, and their really strong feelings about fighting for second-tier workers who make $11 an hour less than the full-time workers. This has been going on for years. You have a person working side-by-side with someone earning $11 an hour less than Tier 1 employees,” Moore told the Detroit Free Press. “I understand trying to bring parity to that work group.”

More from Freep:

Moore, in Grand Rapids this week attending a statewide meeting, is also president of Michigan Joint Council #43 that encompasses all locals in the state or 35,000 Teamsters. Michigan has an additional 200,000 Teamsters retirees. The Teamsters are on standby to respond at a moment’s notice to a UAW strike, he said.


Since Moore has run Local 299 for 24 years, he said he knows just about every Teamster local leader in the country. And they represent a membership of 1.4 million, he said.

Detroit Teamsters are on standby, Moore said. “The Tier 1 workers are fighting for the Tier 2 workers. This is about fairness.”

In addition to driving trucks, Teamsters work in warehousing, operating and repairing ferries and building ships. The Teamsters ratified last month a five-year contract for more than 340,000 UPS workers, raising wages for full- and part-time employees.

The scope of support for the UAW also includes the United Steelworkers, AFL-CIO, Service Employees International (SEIU), Starbucks Workers United, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and CWA (Communication Workers of America).


“What good is it for us to deliver goods and services to companies when they have workers fighting for their pay and their conditions?” Moore told Freep. “We have to show support.”

3rd Gear: Biden Wants Round-The-Clock Talks

President Joe Biden reportedly wants the UAW and the Big Three to work around-the-clock to avoid a strike, according to White House economic adviser Jaren Berstein. From Automotive News:

Biden has “encouraged the parties to stay at the table and to work 24 and 7 to get a win-win agreement that keeps UAW workers at the heart of our auto future,” Bernstein said.

Asked whether Biden will bring in negotiators or be more actively involved, Bernstein said “the president’s been very much engaged.”

Biden has met the UAW president in the Oval Office, called him on Labor Day, and called executives from all three automakers before he left for the G20 last week to “encourage them to provide more forward leaning offers to stay at the table.”


Hopefully “the most pro-union president in American history” doesn’t stick UAW members with the same situation he put rail workers in.

4th Gear: A Different UAW Strike

Over 1,000 UAW members employed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan walked off the job on September 13th. Workers, represented by the Detroit UAW and several other locals across the state, authorized the strike in late August. Negotiations first kicked off in July when workers demanded significant wage increases, better healthcare benefits, and the return of certain outsourced jobs. From Automotive News:

Pickets were seen in downtown Detroit on Wednesday morning as the Detroit auto show opened its doors. The UAW’s contracts with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis are due to expire at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday.


“Our main thing we’re having some concerns with is outsourcing,” Janice Hilliard, president of UAW Local 2145 in Grand Rapids, told Crain’s. “Currently a lot of our work gets outsourced to vendors, including out of the country, such as El Salvador and the Philippines. This is work in our claims area or customer service area, so we wanted to get some type of (contract) language to pretty much stop that, so to speak.”

Hilliard said the outsourcing has led to a dramatic reduction in UAW employees at BCBSM, which represents about 1,100 today, down from more than 5,000 years ago.


BCBSM workers also noted opposition to the extremely high compensation of its CEO, Dan Loepp. It totaled about $157 million in 2022. That’s a lot of cash.

Reverse: McKinley Gets Got


Neutral: Life Isn’t Fair


On The Radio: Pete Seeger - “Solidarity Forever”

Solidarity Forever