US auto workers union expands strike at General Motors, Stellantis


(MENAFN- AFP)

The US auto workers union expanded a potentially economically and politically damaging strike against two of Detroit's "Big Three" on Friday -- and invited President Joe Biden to support workers on the picket line.

United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain announced strikes would begin at 38 US parts and distribution centers owned by General Motors and Stellantis, with whom negotiations have stalled.

The move affects about 5,600 workers across 20 states, according to UAW estimates.

In targeting parts and distribution, the latest action could frustrate GM and Stellantis consumers who bring vehicles
in for servicing.

Fain did not expand the stoppage at Ford, where there are still significant gaps, but which has offered important concessions since the strike was launched a week ago, he said.

"As we have said for weeks, we're not going to wait around forever for fair contracts at the Big Three," Fain said in a briefing.

"We invite and encourage anyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line, from friends and family all the way up to the president of the United States," Fain said -- an invitation that will further push the White House into the politically treacherous issue.

"The way you can help is to build our movement and show the companies that the public stands with us."

Fain's nod to Biden comes after the US president has backed the worker's demands, saying this week at a United Nations event that "record corporation profit
should mean record contracts for union workers" and donning a red tie in solidarity with the UAW.

Unlike other major unions, the UAW has still not endorsed Biden for reelection.

Former president Donald Trump, who has criticized Biden's push towards electric vehicles
, reportedly plans to visit Michigan next week as he seeks to score points with working-class voters.

- Ford gives ground -

Fain said Ford had improved earlier proposals by reinstating a cost-of-living measure that had been suspended in 2009.

The company also offered an enhanced profit
sharing system, the immediate conversion of temporary employees to full-time status and granting the union the right to strike over plant
closures.

"We're not done at Ford," Fain said, noting that the company was "serious about reaching a deal."

"At GM and Stellantis, it's a different story," he added.

Ford said in a statement that it "is working diligently with the UAW to reach a deal that rewards our workforce and enables Ford to invest in a vibrant and growing future."

"Although we are making progress in some areas, we still have significant gaps to close on the key economic issues," the statement said.

GM and Stellantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The UAW's strategy of gradually expanding its action is part of what Fain has dubbed the "stand-up strike" -- an allusion to the union's landmark "sitdown" strike of the 1930s -- that aims to maximize the union's bargaining leverage due to the risk additional plant
s will be taken down.

The UAW is seeking 40 percent wage hikes that would match the average increases by CEOs over the last four years.

Other key demands include an elimination of different worker pay and benefit "tiers," a cost-of-living adjustment, and the reestablishment of retiree medical benefits and a pension for junior employees.

The one-week old strike has so far had a limited effect on company profit
s, while introducing new pressures on auto parts suppliers to the Big Three.

The three plant
s originally targeted produced midsized pickup trucks that are profit
able, but not the biggest cash cows.

The latest action still spares GM and Stellantis the hit from lost revenue from highly profit
able sport utility vehicles
and full-sized pickup trucks, but could irritate customers who are unable to get vehicles
fixed.

Analysts have said the UAW could further expand the strike to the most profit
able plant
s depending on negotiations.

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AFP

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