TOLEDO, Ohio — United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain on Saturday warned autoworkers on strike not to let messaging from the Detroit Three automakers give up their fight for "justice."
"They're trying to cause doubt between the membership and the leadership," Fain told picketers at Stellantis NV's Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plant in Toledo on their 16th day of being on strike. "They're trying to cause division. This is how they operate. This is how people in power operate. We try to divide everybody so they can get done what they want to get done. What they're saying is complete bull----, and it's not going to work. We're smarter than that."
Fain joined Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, for several hours on Saturday afternoon, moving from gate to gate at the plant while meeting with members. Fain's remarks came after Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley said the Detroit-based union was holding an agreement "hostage" over not-yet-open electric-vehicle battery plants and General Motors Co. CEO Marry Barra, in a statement, accused the union of having "no real intent" to make a deal.
The union says it's seeking a record deal in response to record profits made by the automakers, demanding concessions made in 2007 and '09 amid an economic downturn and bankruptcies at GM and Chrysler LLC, like cost-of-living adjustments, a shorter timetable to get to the top wage and the jobs bank be implemented. Meanwhile, the companies say they already are offering record proposals and must remain competitive with non-unionized foreign manufacturers.
Fain said although progress has been made, "it's nowhere near where we need to be." He highlighted retirement security, post-retirement health care and job security in the transition to EVs as key issues.
"These freaking CEOs want to sit here and piss and moan and cry about how we're trying to hold them hostage," Fain said. "We're not holding nobody hostage. They made this decision. They chose to screw around for seven weeks."
The union put forward its economic demands, which it calls its "members' demand" the week of July 30. A month later, Ford was the first to respond to those demands. GM and Stellantis responded after the union filed an unfair labor practices complaint against them, which has since been withdrawn.
The autoworkers at Toledo are some of the members who have been on strike the longest — since the earliest hours of Sept. 15. The union on Friday expanded its strike against General Motors and Ford Motor to two midsize SUV plants, adding 7,000 members to bring the total on strike to 25,300 of roughly 146,000 UAW members at the Detroit Three.
Despite entering a third week of the strike, picketers mostly were jovial, waving American and UAW flags, chatting and laughing and driving golf carts between gates. In contrast to the initial walkout, tents had now been set up outside the fence around the plant, and there were supplies of snacks and water.
"We're here for the long haul," said Kristin Meridieth, 35, of Sylvania. "It's for pensions, COLA, retirement benefits. A wage increase is nice, but I'm more interested in long-term."
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