As the UAW's simultaneous strike against Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis stretches into its second week, US President Joe Biden made a historic visit to workers on the picket line. He addressed UAW members at GM's Willow Run redistribution center west of Detroit, marking the first time a president has made such a move while holding office.
"You guys, the UAW, you saved the auto industry back in 2008 and before," said Biden, speaking to members of UAW Local 174 via bullhorn. "You made a lot of sacrifices, gave up a lot when the companies were in trouble. But now they’re doing incredibly well. And guess what? You should be doing incredibly well too."
President Biden was joined by UAW President Shawn Fain, who's been quite vocal in recent weeks regarding the terms for which its members seek to settle the strike. Speaking to union members after Biden, he evoked the history of the former Willow Run assembly plant, where B-24 Liberator bombers were built during World War II.
"Today, the enemy isn’t some foreign country miles away. It’s right here in our own area. It’s corporate greed," he said. "And the weapon we produce to fight that enemy is the liberators, the true liberators; it’s the working class people, all of you working your butts off on those lines to deliver a great product for our company. That’s how we’re going to defeat these people, that’s how we’re going to defeat corporate greed, is by standing together."
According to Automotive News, the UAW is seeking a 36 percent increase in wages within 90 days, the elimination of different tiers for workers, and a cutback of temporary workers who are typically paid less. The union also seeks restoration of defined-benefit pensions and more time off for workers, which includes a proposed 32-hour work week. Thus far, automakers have proposed a 20-percent increase in wages over four years, with varying degrees of tiers, additional vacation time, and 401 (k)contributions.
This is the first simultaneous strike against Ford, GM, and Chrysler (now part of Stellantis) in the UAW's history. Initially starting with walkouts at three manufacturing plants, the strike has expanded to 38 parts plants for GM and Stellantis. Citing some progress in talks with Ford, the UAW hasn't expanded its strike beyond the automaker's Michigan plant where the Bronco is built.
Motor1.com reached out to representatives at Ford, Stellantis, and General Motors for comment on Biden's visit. Official statements are below.
On the first day of the strike, President Biden said UAW workers “deserve a contract that sustains them and the middle class.” We agree and presented a record offer.
Here are the facts: 21.4 percent compounded wage increase including a 10 percent increase at ratification, $1 Billion in retirement security benefits, inflation protection measure, job security and more. Unlike the non-unionized transplants and EV startups who comprise the majority of the U.S. market, Stellantis relies on the collaboration between management and labor to ensure that our company remains competitive and, therefore, sustainable.
That is a position we have proudly embraced. But it also requires a balanced agreement that fairly rewards our workforce for their contribution to our success, without significantly disadvantaging Stellantis against our non-union competitors. We stand ready to sign a record contract that positions our company to continue providing good jobs here at home and be the winner as the U.S. transitions to an electrified future.
Our focus is not on politics but continues to be on bargaining in good faith with the UAW leadership to reach an agreement as quickly as possible that rewards our workforce and allows GM to succeed and thrive into the future.
We have presented five, record economic proposals that address the areas our team members have said matter most, including wage increases and job security.
We value our workforce and understand the impact a strike has on our employees, communities and the economy – nobody wins.
We will add Ford's response if/when it's available.