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February 20, 2024

United Auto Worker Strike Explained

Photo Courtesy of Investopedia.

Intro

It seems like everyone is on strike. It started with the writers, then the actors, and now it is the auto workers of America. The strike started on September 15th when the labor contract between United Auto Workers (UAW) and what they call the Big Three (Ford, General Motors, and Stallantis, which owns Chrysler) ended. 

Why They Are Striking 

The workers are striking because UAW and the Big Three have yet to reach a deal in labor negotiations. Working conditions post-pandemic have been negatively impacting auto-workers with pay, hours, and benefits being at the core of the problem. With resentment and frustration building up, it was only a matter of time before a strike erupted. 

How They Are Striking

The UAW is using a tactic different from the other strikes we currently are seeing. The type of strike they are using are called “stand-up” strikes. In these strikes, the UAW is calling on workers at specific plants to strike while others keep working under their expired contracts. The reasons behind this are that it gives the union more leverage and will keep the corporations guessing on what their next step is. This tactic is also useful in that it allows the strike fund money to stretch further, allowing the union to strike longer. 

What Are Their Demands

The UAW has many demands in which the three companies must meet to have the strike end:

  • A two-tiered wage system, which states that those who have joined before 2007 make more than double than those who joined afterwards (and can clearly be seen as unfair), is eliminated;
  • Double-digit wage increases, with the official UAW website stating that “Big Three CEOs saw their pay spike 40 percent on average over the last four years. We know our members are worth the same and more” (uaw.org);
  • Cost-of-living adjustments to be restored, which has made sure for decades that the working class has the ability to thrive.
    • With inflation being at an all-time high, this program is a necessity for UAW members and their families;
  • All workers have a pension, which has secured retirement for UAW members for generations;
  • Retiree medical benefits to be re-established, as well as a significant increase in retiree pay stating on the official UAW website that, “We owe our retirees everything. They built these companies and they built our union” (uaw.org); 
  • That the abuse of temporary workers stops; saying that although the UAW is targeted for long-time auto workers they still stand with temporary workers. 
  • The right to strike over plant closures; with the fact that 65 plants have closed in the past 20 years devastating communities across the country. 
  • A working family protection program which keeps UAW members on the job if the companies try to leave their town.
  • More paid time off to be with family, stating on the official UAW website that, “Our members are working 60, 70, even 80 hours a week just to make ends meet. That’s not living. It’s barely surviving and it needs to stop” (uaw.org)

While their demands may seem like a lot to most, they hold strong that what they are asking for is basic and necessary in the long term.

What Now

What is clear now is that progress is being made and some of the demands have been met. Ford, one of the companies that is being striked against, and the UAW have made great progress at the bargaining table with it being decided to not expand the strike on Ford. The gains that the UAW has made in the past weeks are historic and never seen before; however, there is still a long way to go. For now, the strike will continue for an unforeseeable amount of time. To learn more about the strike, the UAW, and to continue to follow the strike, visit https://uaw.org/ the official website for the UAW. 

Resources

https://uaw.org/ 

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