United Auto Workers Triumph in Historic Strike Against Big Three

United Auto Workers Triumph in Historic Strike Against Big Three

How long will the UAW strike continue? Recently, the United Auto Workers ended its six-week strike after reaching a tentative labor agreement with GM.

In any contentious negotiation, one side holds out more than the other. In the case of this groundbreaking strike, in which the UAW went up against all three of the Detroit Big Three automakers, GM was the final holdout. Now that a tentative deal has been reached, the strike is over, and workers can begin feeling they have won their side of things against these three automakers. This strike had nationwide attention on it, as other autoworkers at other brands considered uniting.

What did GM agree to?

The deal struck between the UAW and GM gives workers a 25% wage increase across a 4 ½ year deal with cost of living adjustments built into the deal. Employees at GM’s parts distributors, car care facilities, and a plant in Brownstown, MI, will be removed from the two-tier wage system. This deal also brings employees at various subsidiaries under the UAW national contract. This is a huge win for the auto workers and, once ratified, will allow workers to get back to the plants and return to work.

The tentative agreement with GM mirrors the same agreements made by UAW leadership and Ford and Stellantis previously.

How many GM workers went on strike?

The UAW strike lasted six weeks and started with only a handful of plants across the three automakers. The tentative deal with GM came one day after nearly 4,000 employees at the Spring Hill, TN factory went on strike and walked out of the factory. These workers joined nearly 14,000 other GM workers who were already on strike from factories in Texas, Michigan, and Missouri. This new deal should enable workers to get back to the job at hand, building cars, trucks, and SUVs under the four GM brands.

Across the three automakers, nearly 46,000 UAW members were on strike together. This is close to one-third of the union’s 146,000 members at all three companies. Thousands more joined the work stoppage as the strike grew longer.

The President applauded the picketing GM workers

President Joe Biden commented and applauded the power of unions and collective bargaining during this process. He recently stated:

“This historic tentative agreement rewards the autoworkers who have sacrificed so much with record raises, more paid leave, greater retirement security, and more rights and respect at work. I want to applaud the UAW and GM for agreeing to immediately bring back all of the GM workers who have been walking the picket line on behalf of their UAW brothers and sisters.”

An unprecedented strike pays off

At no other time in automotive history have all three of the Detroit Big Three autoworkers exited on strike at the same time. This unprecedented strategy resulted in a successful UAW strike with strong agreements at all three companies to improve pay and living conditions for UAW members at Ford, GM, and Stellantis. Ford was the first of the three automakers to strike a deal with the UAW, which gave the union a format to pattern the agreements for the other two automakers. This also gave the union the leverage needed to pressure other automakers into succumbing to demands.

How did the automakers initially respond to the strike

Initially, GM and the other two automakers responded to the strike by laying off those unionized workers who weren’t on strike. This sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it was meant to send a message. GM laid off close to 2,500 employees across Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, New York, and Ohio. These workers could be out of a job; it’s still unclear whether or not GM will bring these workers back to the plants where they were laid off from once the UAW contract is finalized.

The timing was right for a UAW strike

The end of the previous contract, coupled with an increasing need to provide new electric vehicles to the market, made for the perfect time for UAW members to go on strike. These three automakers are looking to become dominant in the EV space, and a strike only slows that down. Other automakers don’t have unionized workers yet, and that makes for major challenges when the workforce doesn’t come to work en masse.

How much did automakers lose because of the strike?

It’s estimated the Big 3 lost nearly $4.2 billion because of the UAW strike, including $488 million in lost wages for workers. This work stoppage also caused layoffs at auto supplier companies as well. Now that agreements have been reached by all three automakers, hopefully, things can get back to normal and on track.

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