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Thursday, September 28, 2023

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UAW Members Authorize to Strike GM, Ford, Stellantis

United Auto Workers members voted to grant their union leaders permission to authorize a strike during ongoing contract negotiations with General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis, if warranted.

The union group said on Friday that an average of 97% of combined UAW union members approved the action, however the final numbers are still being counted.

Back in 2019, 96% of workers voted in support of authorization for work stoppage. That event involved 48,000 union members and lasted 40 days until UAW accepted the contract terms from General Motors.

The 2019 walkout resulted in a production loss of 300,000 vehicles and cost the automakers $3.6 billion in earnings.

It’s important to note that an authorization vote does not directly mean a strike will take place, it simply is a procedural step in the negotiating process. 

UAW President Shawn Fain has been much more vocal about utilizing a strike as a weapon against the companies during negotiations compared to past union presidents.

“The Big Three is our strike target. And whether or not there’s a strike — it’s up to Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, because they know what our priorities are. We’ve been clear,” Fain has said.

The union’s demands include a 46% wage increase, restoration of traditional pensions, cost-of-living increases, reducing the workweek to 32 hours from 40 and increasing retiree benefits.

The UAW said 98% of hourly workers and 99% of salaried workers at Ford voted in favor of an authorization. GM passed by 96%, while the action was approved at Stellantis by 95%.

Walkouts come in all different shapes and sizes, there could be a national strike where all the workers covered in the contract stop working. There is also a targeted work stoppage, which is where certain plants over local contract issues pause operations.

A walkout against all three automakers, as Fain has alluded to, would be the most impactful but also the riskiest and most costly for the union.

The union has more than $825 million in strike funds that would be used to pay members $500 per week while on strike. Last year the strike payout was $275 per week.

Assuming 150,000 members are covered by the contract, a union member walkout would cost $75 million per week. So with the available funds, the union can only afford to go on strike for 11 weeks.

The strike funds do not cover health care costs, if health care was covered it would drain the funds much quicker.

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