The battle between the United Auto Workers union and Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers is revving up as tens of thousands of union members say they’re prepared to walk off the job if changes to their labor contract aren’t made.
“We are loyal when we show up to these corporations every single day and we do not spend that time with our family,” said Jessie Kelly, UAW Local 160 member. “We show up and we make them multi-million-dollar profits.”
The current contract is set to expire Sept. 14 but negotiations on a new one are still ongoing.
Some employees say they’re struggling to pay their bills, even while making the top wage for their position. Others say they’re often left working seven day a week and are missing out on valuable family time in the process.
“Mom guilt through the roof,” said Kiada Shanklin, an employee at the Stellantis assembly plant. “Like coming home and seeing my kid learned something new or did something new, and I wasn’t even there to cheer them on through it. That hurts.”
The UAW’s list of demands includes more paid time off, a 32-hour workweek, a double-digit pay increase, and an end to wage tiers. UAW President Shawn Fain says if those needs aren’t met by the 14th, then “we gotta do what we gotta do.”
“I’m tired. I’m tired after 29 years as a member of this union, and I know you’re tired of watching things go backwards,” Fain said. “And we’re here today to stop that. We’re here to turn that around.”
Fain is a fairly new addition to the union leadership team. He won the presidency back in March, becoming the first-ever UAW head to be elected by its members.
General Motors, Stellantis and Ford have said in their own separate statements that they’re working with UAW members on solutions and are aware of the economic impact of the jobs in question. GM in particular said, “We continue to bargain in good faith each day to support our team members, our customers and dealers, the community, our suppliers, and the business.”
According to a recent analysis by Anderson Economic Group, a potential UAW strike could cost the “Big Three” more than $5 billion in just 10 days.
Still, the UAW says it’s ready for the picket lines. The union reportedly has $825 million in its strike fund and has raised strike pay to $500 per week.
“I do feel like there could be a resolution without a strike,” said Terrel Brown, a Stellantis assembly plant worker. “But in my honest opinion, I don’t think that is likely. I think there’s gonna be some sort of strike.”