The union is demanding big pay raises and the restoration of concessions the workers made years ago when the companies were in financial trouble. The UAW also wants to secure more investment in electric vehicle production and a greater share of the profits that the automakers have enjoyed in recent years.
The negotiations have been slow and contentious, with no immediate resolution on the horizon. UAW president Shawn Fain said he intended to launch a series of limited and targeted “standup” strikes to shut individual auto plants around the US until a satisfactory deal is reached. He did not rule out broadening the strikes beyond the initial three targets. “This is our defining moment,” Fain said during a livestream on Thursday night. “If we need to go all out, we will.”
The strike has drawn attention from politicians and the public, who are watching closely how President Joe Biden will respond to the labor action. Biden, who has touted himself as a champion of the middle class and a friend of unions, has not yet commented on the strike or intervened in the talks. Some analysts say that Biden’s visibility and his response to the eventual outcome will shape his reelection pitch to working-class voters in 2024.
The strike could also have significant economic impacts, as the auto industry is a major driver of jobs and growth in the US. A week-long shutdown at Stellantis’ Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, could cut revenue by more than $380 million, according to data from the company’s financial reports. The UAW has a $825 million strike fund that is set to compensate workers $500 a week while out on strike and could support all of its members for about three months. Staggering the strikes rather than having all 150,000 members walk out at once will allow the union to stretch those resources.