By Karen Hanna
Two days after an abrupt escalation in the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) strike against the nation’s Big Three automakers, the man leading the charge warned Ford, Stellantis and General Motors (GM) the picket lines could swell further.
“Don't you dare slow-walk us or low-ball us. We will take out whatever plants they force us to,” UAW President Shawn Fain said Friday in an address delivered live via social media.
Since the strike began Sept. 15, around 34,000 UAW members have hit the picket lines.
According to the most recent poll of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), the cascading effects of the monthlong strike are being felt throughout the supply chain. On Friday, the association reported that, in a survey of 54 of its members, 70 percent expect to lay off workers if the strike lasts through October.
In its survey, conducted between Oct. 9-11, the MEMA found that 39 percent of parts suppliers have laid off at least some of their workers, and half of suppliers that have not yet initiated layoffs would do so by the week of Oct. 30.
Almost four-fifths of suppliers reported they are concerned about the financial viability of their sub-suppliers, while three in 10 said they are concerned about their own financial condition.
After learning on Wednesday that the UAW had expanded its strike to include Ford’s biggest plant, the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Jeff Ignatowski reflected in an email on a move he had previously characterized as a “nuclear option” — walk-offs at any of the Big Three’s big truck plants.
Ignatowski said Fain’s comments leave him to feel that “he could strike additional plants at any moment. However, we remain cautious.”
On Wednesday, Ford blasted the UAW’s decision to include the truck plant’s 8,700 UAW members in the strike.
“Ford made an outstanding offer that would make a meaningful positive difference in the quality of life for our 57,000 UAW-represented workers, who are already among the best compensated hourly manufacturing workers anywhere in the world. In addition to our offer on pay and benefits, Ford has been bargaining in good faith this week on joint venture battery plants, which are slated to begin production in the coming years," the company said in a statement Wednesday.
Pay increases, as well as the potential for temporary workers and workers hired at lower-pay tiers to rise to the levels of other UAW members, are among demands highlighted in the strike.
But Fain said the company’s most recent offer represented no more money for workers than previous offers. To the UAW’s negotiating team, that was unacceptable — leading the union to expand its strike for the first time on a day other than a Friday.
According to the Ford press release, the Kentucky Truck Plant, which churns out F-Series Super Duty trucks, Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators, produces $25 billion a year in revenue.
The MEMA asked the federal government to provide financial assistance to smaller suppliers via loans, grants and training. According to the association, suppliers employ over 900,000 workers, over six times more than the 146,000 UAW members working for the Big Three. In all, they contribute 2.5 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.