Sen. Bernie Sanders joins United Auto Workers strike in Michigan

20:35 18.09.2023 - New York Post

Senator Bernie Sanders addressed striking United Auto Workers (UAW) employees in Detroit, Michigan on Friday, calling out automakers CEOs to "end their greed."

The far-left senator's remarks came on Friday afternoon during the first day of the union's Stand Up strikes against General Motors, Stellantis and Ford.

"The fight that you are waging here is not only about decent wages, decent benefits and decent working conditions in the automobile industry," Sander's said. "No. The fight you are waging is a fight against the outrageous level of corporate greed and arrogance that we are seeing on the part of CEOs who think they have a right to have it all and could [not] care less about the needs of their workers."

Sanders continued to torch General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares and Ford CEO Jim Farley saying that they, "make out like bandits."

"We refuse to live in an oligarchy," Sanders said. "We refuse to accept a society in which so few have so much and so many have so little."

Sanders ended his speech with remarks for automakers' leadership calling on them to negotiate a fair contract.

"I would like to say a word to the CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Understand, CEOs, the enormous financial sacrifices your workers have made over the years," he said.

"It is time for you to end your greed," Sanders continued. "It is time for you to treat your employees with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is time to sit down and negotiate a fair contract."

Sanders went on to support UAW's push for a four-day workweek, arguing that the introduction of artificial intelligence will soon boost the productivity of individual workers.

"I happen to believe that, as a nation, we should begin a serious discussion - and the UAW is doing that - about substantially lowering the workweek. People in America are stressed out for a dozen different reasons," Sanders said. "And that's one of the reasons why life expectancy in our country is actually in decline. People are overwhelmed. They got to take care of their kids. They got to worry about health care. They got to worry about housing. They're worried."

"It seems to me that, if new technology is going to make us a more productive society, the benefits should go to the workers," he said.

The main point of contention between the two sides is higher pay, with Fain saying the union is seeking a more than 40% general pay raise for rank-and-file members over four years.

Full-time assembly plant workers at Ford and GM earn $32.32 an hour, while part-timers currently make about $17 an hour. Full-time employees at Stellantis earn $31.77 an hour, and part-time workers earn close to $16 an hour.

The union has also been pushing for making all temporary workers at the automakers permanent, cost-of-living adjustments, increases in pension benefits for current retirees and restoring pensions for new hires, among other benefits.

After not reaching an agreement on Thursday night, the workers began striking at a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan. Plants that were not called upon to strike will work without a contract, UAW President Shawn Fain said.

FOX Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report.

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 8:35 PM /

themes:  Detroit  Ohio  Michigan  Missouri

United Auto Workers go on strike against Ford, GM, Stellantis

Detroit's Big Three automakers failed to reach a new labor agreement before their contract with employees represented by the United Auto Workers expired at midnight Thursday, setting the stage for one of the largest strikes to hit the U.S. in years.

The UAW said it now plans to execute a so-called stand up strike strategy in which employees at a small number of Ford, General Motors and Stellantis factories are walking off the job on Friday. Employees, who technically are now working under an expired labor contract, will be paid through the UAW's strike fund, which sits at $825 million.

"Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will strike all three of the Big Three at once," UAW President Shawn Fain said in a Facebook Live address late Thursday night.

Fain called on three factories to strike immediately beginning Friday. They included a GM assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, and a Stellantis assembly complex in Toledo, Ohio.

"The locals that are not yet called to join the stand-up strike will continue working under an expired agreement," Fain said.

Dozens of workers gathered outside of the Ford plant in Wayne as the midnight deadline approached. A mass rally was also scheduled for Friday afternoon in downtown Detroit.

"We will show our strength and unity on the first day of this historic action," Fain said. "All options remain on the table."

The work stoppage marks the first strike at the Detroit automakers since workers walked out on GM in 2019.

The UAW's demands include a 36% pay increase across a four-year contract; pension benefits for all employees; limited use of temporary workers; more paid time off, including a four-day workweek ; and more job protections, including the right to strike over plant closings.

With talks at an impasse on Thursday, leaders at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) said they have made multiple offers to the UAW in recent weeks in hopes of inking a new deal for the union's 145,000 workers.

"I think they're preparing for a historic strike with all three companies," Ford CEO Jim Farley told CBS News earlier Thursday.

Although the Big Three have been unwilling to fulfill all of the UAW's demands, they contend they've made reasonable counteroffers and are willing to negotiate further. In outlining their position, automaker officials say that they're under enormous pressure to keep costs and car prices low in order to compete with Tesla and foreign car makers, especially as the companies compete for a stake in the growing electric vehicle market.

"What their initial offer was, is to pay our hourly workers about $300,000 each, and to work four days," Farley said of UAW Thursday. "That would basically put our company out of business."

Although Fain acknowledged that the automakers had upped their wage offers, the proposals remain inadequate, he said. Ford has offered 20% over 4.5 years, while GM and Stellantis offered 18% and 17.5% over four years, respectively.

The strike could cause a surge in car prices, result in $5.6 billion in economic losses for the automakers, according to one forecast and reduce the nation's GDP by as much as 0.3%, according to Oxford Economics.

UAW will strike additional U.S. auto plants if 'serious progress' isn't made by noon Friday

DETROIT - The United Auto Workers union will announce additional strikes at General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis plants if the sides don't make "serious progress" in negotiations by noon ET Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain announced Monday night.

The timing of the additional plants would come just over a week after the union announced targeted strikes at assembly plants for each of the Big Three Detroit automakers, sending about 12,700 workers to picket lines.

"Autoworkers have waited long enough to make things right at the Big Three. We're not waiting around, and we're not messing around. So, noon on Friday, September 22nd is a new deadline," Fain said in a video released online by the union.

Fain previously said the union planned to increase the work stoppages, based on how negotiations with the companies were going. The announcement follows the union meeting with each of the automakers since the targeted strikes began Friday.

Unlike the original contract deadlines, Fain did not say tentative agreements needed to be reached at the companies to avoid additional strikes, just "serious progress." A union spokesman did not immediately respond for comment regarding what defines that aside from a tentative deal.

Currently on strike are workers from GM's midsize truck and full-size van plant in Wentzville, Missouri; Ford's Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV plant in Wayne, Michigan; and Stellantis' Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plant in Toledo, Ohio.

The union selected the plants as part of targeted strike plans, as Fain and UAW leaders unconventionally negotiate with all three automakers at once. It's calling the work stoppages "stand-up strikes," a nod to historic sit-down strikes by the UAW in the 1930s.

"The 'Stand Up Strike' is a new approach to striking. Instead of striking all plants all at once, select locals have been called on to 'Stand Up'

and walk out on strike. If the automakers fail to make progress in negotiations and bargain in good faith going forward, more locals will be called on to Stand Up and join the strike," Fain said Monday.

Targeted strikes typically focus on key plants that can then cause other plants to cease production due to a lack of parts. They are not unprecedented, but the way the union is conducting them is not typical.

Ford and Stellantis did not immediately respond for comment on the new "deadline." GM released a general statement on the talks: "We're continuing to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the U.S."

The additional strike plans are despite automakers making record offers to the union that include roughly 20% hourly wage increases, thousands of dollars in bonuses, retention of the union's platinum health care and other sweetened benefits.

Key demands from the union have included 40% hourly pay increases, a reduced 32-hour workweek, a shift back to traditional pensions, the elimination of compensation tiers and a restoration of cost-of-living adjustments, among other items.

Mood upbeat along picket lines on US auto strike's first day

Tim Jackson was partly through a car repair Thursday night when he learned that Ford's Wayne, Michigan factory had been tapped as one of three plants nationally to strike.

"Everybody started yelling," Jackson recalled as he stood outside the Ford assembly plant on Friday evening while passing cars honked in approval of the United Auto Workers strike.

Spirits were high on the picket line throughout Friday, the opening salvo in the 88-year-old union's first ever simultaneous strike of Detroit's Big Three auto manufacturers.

The UAW had for weeks telegraphed a potential stoppage at General Motors, Ford and Jeep-maker Stellantis, with chatter in recent days of a limited strike rather than a comprehensive walkout of the 150,000 union members across the United States.

UAW President Shawn Fain described his goal as keeping the companies off balance to maximize bargaining leverage with a targeted strike that could be expanded over time. In a Facebook Live address late Thursday UAW President Shawn Fain said that employees at three factories for Ford, General Motors and Stellantis would immediately walk off the job. ..... 

When Fain ultimately unveiled the picks late Thursday, Wayne was on the list, along with a GM factory in Wentzville, Missouri and a Stellantis facility in Toledo, Ohio.

"It felt good and scary all at the same time," said Jackson, who sees the demand of a higher hourly wage as key to being able to spend more time with his family instead of working 70 to 80-hour weeks.

While Jackson was hearing the news about Wayne, around 300 miles (480 kilometers) away anticipation was high in Louisville, Kentucky that Ford's truck plant would be picked.

But Tameka Colon shrugged as she recounted the moment she learned Louisville was not chosen, noting that the Local 862 had been organizing strike logistics for weeks in case it got the call.

"I'm going to trust the process," she said. "But I was a little disappointed that we did not get chosen because I feel like we are an ideal plant to strike and really make an impact."

Instead of walking out on strike, Colon worked a 12-hour shift through the night before joining about 40 other Local 862 members as they bussed five hours to Michigan for a UAW rally in downtown Detroit headlined by Fain and progressive Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

"We came off the bus chanting," said Colon as she held printouts of union chants, some highlighted in yellow.

"We've got the mojo and it spreads like wildfire," Colon said. "People need to see that and the companies need to see that."

Polls suggest broad public support for the union, especially in comparison with CEOs from the three companies, who each make eight-figure salaries.

But Sofus Nielson, who has worked at Ford for 29 years, does not expect the companies to bow quickly.

"They're gonna try to make people feel it and hurt," he said, describing Friday's cheer as a reflection of the novelty of the strike.

But Nielson expects a "different attitude" in three weeks if workers are still on the picket line, receiving just $500 weekly in strike pay instead of normal wages.

The strike comes as an auto industry transition to electric vehicles gathers momentum. All three of the companies are investing billions of dollars to build new factories and reboot existing sites for the electric era.

Uncertainty about what the change means for auto workers has been a focal point for Fain echoed by some officials at union locals.

But rank-and-file workers told AFP on Friday that their priority in the strike was winning better wages and benefits, especially for younger colleagues, who can be paid just $15 or $17 an hour in a temporary status that can drag on for years.

Workers also expressed disgust at a tier system in which junior employees are paid less for the same work and don't get a pension.

Ramona Jocys, who has worked at Ford for 33 years, was not assigned to strike duty Friday, but came to the picket line in solidarity with fellow UAW members, including her son-in-law, whom she said makes only half her salary.

"I'm standing right next to my son-in-law who is a part of the tier wage, because he deserves to make good money to feed his family," she said.

"And I'm going to retire soon, but he's gonna carry on. And it's important that we do what we have to do now to ensure the survival of our families."

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