United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain issued a stark warning on Friday, cautioning that further walkouts at U.S. truck and SUV factories could ensue unless the Detroit Three automakers improved their wage and benefit proposals.
Fain emphasized that these highly profitable companies had the capacity to offer more substantial packages than those currently on the negotiating table.
In the aftermath of a five-week strike, Fain disclosed that the UAW had recently received fresh contract proposals from General Motors (GM) and Stellantis (Chrysler’s parent company), with Ford having presented its most recent offer two weeks ago.
It was revealed that the Detroit Three had coalesced around a 23% wage hike offer and had made progress on other important issues.
Nonetheless, Fain asserted that there was still more to be achieved, with GM and Ford arguing that additional cost-of-living adjustments already pushed their total compensation offers beyond 30%.
While Fain acknowledged the desire of some UAW members to vote on the existing offers, he urged them not to succumb to “fear, uncertainty, doubt, and division” that, according to him, had been sown by the companies.
Simultaneously, he conveyed that the negotiations were approaching a conclusion, emphasizing that the final stages of a strike were often the most challenging.
Shares in GM and Ford both saw a 1% increase in value before Fain’s remarks.
The UAW had initially demanded a 40% wage hike, leading to walkouts at all three automakers on September 15, with more than 34,000 union members participating in the UAW’s first simultaneous strikes against the Detroit Three.
Friday’s progress in talks followed the UAW’s unexpected strike at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant, which generates $25 billion in annual sales, serving as a warning to GM and Stellantis.
Fain’s strongest words were directed at Ford and Bill Ford, the company’s chairman and great-grandson of founder Henry Ford.
He declared that the days of UAW and Ford collaborating against other companies were over, critiquing Ford’s $600 million fourth-quarter dividend as an indicator of available resources that were not being shared with workers.
Automakers expressed concerns that union demands would significantly elevate costs and impede their electric vehicle (EV) ambitions, particularly as EV leader Tesla and foreign brands like Toyota remained non-unionized.
Ford expressed eagerness to conclude negotiations in a statement issued after Fain’s remarks, citing the impact on lost wages and profit sharing by workers, while Stellantis had no immediate comment.
Bill Ford highlighted the toll the strike was taking on the automaker and the U.S. economy, with estimated total economic losses from the strike reaching $7.7 billion, including $3.45 billion in losses for the Detroit Three.
Notably, Fain did not mention the EV battery plants in discussions.
The UAW’s demand includes organizing workers at these facilities and raising wages to align with assembly plant pay scales, which are currently lower.