DETROIT – The United Auto Workers will not expand strikes against the Detroit automakers this week amid progress in the talks, including General Motors agreeing to cover battery cell workers under the company’s national agreement.
Fain said the union was planning to shut down GM’s Arlington Assembly plant that produces highly profitable full-size SUVs until a last-minute proposal by the company to include the automaker’s battery cell workers under its national agreement.
“Just that threat has provided a transformative win,” Fain said during an online broadcast Friday. We’ve been told for months that this is impossible … and now we’ve called their bluff.”
GM was not immediately available to comment regarding the battery plant workers
Electric vehicle battery plants have been a major point of contention in this year’s talks between the union and the three Detroit automakers. Each automaker has formed joint ventures with battery makers to manufacture EV batteries in the United States — a move the union has characterized as a plan to shut it out of the new factories, many of which are under construction now.
Officially, because they’re owned by joint ventures, the battery plants aren’t covered by the automakers’ agreements with the union. The automakers have said that because of that status, the plants shouldn’t be a factor in contract negotiations with the union.
But the UAW has made a “just transition” — meaning, a plan to protect their members as the industry shifts to electric vehicles — a centerpiece of this year’s negotiations, something that has frustrated the automakers. Ford CEO Jim Farley said last week that the UAW is “holding the deal hostage over battery plants.”
Fain said in his Friday presentation that the union had expected to announce an expansion of the strike against GM. “But today, because of our power, GM has agreed to lay the foundation for a just transition,” he said.
UAW has been gradually increasing the strikes since the work stoppages began, after the sides failed to reach tentative agreements by Sept 14. The targeted, or “stand up,” strikes are taking place instead of national walkouts in which all plants simultaneously strike.
“Here’s the bottom line: We are winning. We are making progress,” Fain said Friday.
Only 25,200 workers, or roughly 17% of UAW members covered by the expired contracts with the Detroit automakers, are currently on strike. Fain previously said the union would increase the work stoppages, based on progress in the contract negotiations.
The strikes began at an assembly plant for each of the Detroit automakers, followed by 38 parts and distribution centers for GM and Stellantis. A week ago, the union expanded strikes to assembly plants for GM in mid-Michigan and Ford in Illinois.
“We’ve bee very careful about how we escalate this strategy,” Fain said.
Vehicle production impacted by the strikes include Ford’s Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco, Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs; Stellantis’ Jeep Wrangler SUV and Gladiator small pickup; and GM’s Chevrolet and GMC midsize pickups, Chevrolet Traverse, Cadillac XT4 and Buick Enclave SUVs and Chevrolet Malibu sedan. The Malibu and XT4 production were idled due to parts shortages caused by the strike.
GM this week said the UAW’s strike cost it $200 million in lost production during the third quarter.
UAW negotiators have received counter proposals from each of the Detroit automakers during the past week, starting with Stellantis a week ago before Fain’s Friday strike announcement. Ford followed early in the with a proposal and then GM submitted a counteroffer Wednesday night.
— This is breaking news. Please check back for additional updates.