Workers at the US largest automakers have begun a strike

The United Autoworkers Union (UAW) has announced that staff at three of America's largest carmakers, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, have started strike action. The strike began at midnight eastern time at GM's Wentzville mid-size truck plant, Ford's Bronco plant in Michigan, and the Toledo Jeep plant owned by Stellantis. The plants are critical to the production of some of the "Detroit Three's" most profitable vehicles. Other facilities will continue to operate, but the UAW did not rule out broadening the strikes beyond the initial three targets.

The union had sought a 40% pay increase for its roughly 140,000 members over four years, noting a comparable rise in pay for company leaders. Other demands included a four-day working week, the return of automatic pay increases tied to inflation, and stricter limits on how long workers can be considered "temporary" staff who do not receive union benefits. Talks between the two sides, which kicked off in July, were tense from the start, with 97% of members voted to authorise a strike last month. As of Wednesday, the three companies had upped their initial proposals, with Ford offering a 20% hike in pay over the contract term, GM offering 18%, and Stellantis, the owner of Jeep and Chrysler, 17.5%.

Workers said the companies could afford to be more generous after years of record profits. Paul Raczka, who works in a Stellantis factory in Michigan making Jeep Grand Cherokees, said he was owed this. The supply of cars, which has been strained since the parts shortages of the pandemic, remains far lower than it has been in the past. Analysts said that could also mean a prolonged walkout leads to higher prices for buyers.

Ford, GM, and Stellantis together account for about 40% of US car sales, though their share has dropped sharply over the last quarter of a century, as foreign firms such as Toyota make inroads. The last time the car industry faced a strike was in 2019, when workers at General Motors walked off the job for six weeks.

UAW participants are due to receive $500 in weekly strike benefits from the union, but that would still be significantly less than her wages. Jessie Kelly, who participated in that walkout, said she had been trying to save up in anticipation of another stoppage. She said her strike bills would not cover her mortgage, let alone the grocery bills, let alone the lights and everything else.


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