The United Auto Workers will go on strike at a limited number of plants across all three major Detroit car manufacturers if a contract deal isn't reached by Thursday night, union President Shawn Fain said Wednesday.
“We’re preparing to strike these companies in a way they’ve never seen before,” Fain said on Facebook Live.
The move would make good on Fain’s threats to stop work at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis upon the expiration of UAW’s contracts with the automakers at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, as the union remains dissatisfied with the state of negotiations toward a new deal.
"We will not strike all of our facilities at once. We will strike all three companies, a historic first, initially at a limited number of targeted locations," Fain said, then add more plants as needed.
The plan will create confusion for the companies, Fain said, without naming the union's specific targets. In the past, the union has targeted one company among the Big Three to strike, not specific plants across all three companies.
However, the plan stops short of a full-scale strike of all the nearly 150,000 workers covered by the contract. That significantly limits the immediate economic hit to both the region and the overall economy while giving the union the ability to ratchet up the pressure on the car companies.
“To win, we’re likely going to have to take action," Fain said Wednesday.
Fain will announce the first targeted plants at 10 p.m. Thursday if there’s no deal by then, he said. He told members to listen to local leaders and not strike if they’re not called to, but to stay ready.
The union president said the UAW's goal is to come to what it considers a fair agreement, not strike. But he didn’t rule out the possibility that there could eventually be a strike of all workers covered by the contract: “We’re keeping our options open,” Fain said.
Fain also said there's been movement on toplines in the automakers’ latest proposals, including a 20 percent wage increase proposal from Ford. General Motors proposed an 18 percent increase, and Chrysler-maker Stellantis proposed a 17.5 percent increase, Fain said, all significantly higher than the numbers floated by the companies last week.
Still, Fain called the automakers’ proposals inadequate. The UAW originally sought a 40 percent wage increase for workers — an amount it said matches how much automakers' CEO pay has ratcheted up since the last contract was signed in 2019.
But it has recently scaled down that demand to around 36 percent, two people familiar with the matter confirmed Tuesday.
The nearly hourlong UAW livestream Wednesday included quotes from Scripture and a call for members to have faith.
“Nobody’s coming to save us. Nobody can win this fight for us. Our greatest hope and our only hope is with each other standing together," Fain said.
Ford President and CEO Jim Farley said he hadn't even heard that the UAW had received their latest offer until Fain talked about it on Facebook Live.
"We are here and ready to reach a deal," Farley said. "We should be working creatively to solve hard problems rather than planning strikes and PR events."
The White House has stepped delicately during the tense negotiations, closely monitoring developments in recent weeks and urging a deal, while not directly intervening in the process.
Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and other top members of the Biden administration have repeatedly expressed confidence in the talks and vowed not to step in unless requested by one or both sides. And liberal lawmakers have become increasingly vocal in their support of the UAW’s stance against the big car companies as the standoff has come down to the wire.