United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said Monday morning there's still a long way to go before the Detroit-based union reaches tentative labor agreements with the Detroit Three automakers and ends a strike against all of them.
"We've put full offers to all three companies before the strike deadline, and we've really had minimal conversations over the weekend," Fain told NPR. "The ball's still in their court, so we're going to keep moving as we have and just see how things progress."
The UAW is expected to meet with Stellantis at 11 a.m. Monday. The union met with Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. over the weekend once talks resumed on Saturday after the previous contracts between the parties expired on Thursday a minute before midnight. When that happened, 2,900 workers at Ford's Ranger and Bronco plant in Wayne; Stellantis NV's Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plant in Toledo, Ohio; and GM's midsize truck and commercial van plant in Wentzville, Missouri, went on strike.
The union has threatened that more sites could be added based on how talks continue in what it calls a "stand-up strike strategy," though Fain refrained from stating whether that could be soon. He noted that the union put forth to the automakers its members' demands, including economic proposals, the week of July 30.
"We were very upfront from day one over eight weeks ago when we began bargaining with the companies, we stated ... if they expected to wait until the last minute and start bargaining, they were going to find they were going to be disappointed, because we expected to get down to our members' demands and take care of business early, so we wouldn't be in this position," he said. "The companies chose not to, and so they waited until last week to actually start really talking, and so we have a long way to go, and if the company does not respect the demands of our workers, then we will escalate action."
As a result of the strike, Ford on Friday temporarily laid off the rest of its 600 workers at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, since the union only had the assembly and paint shop workers walk out. General Motors Co. has said Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas, where it makes the Chevrolet Malibu sedan and Cadillac XT4 SUV, could idle this week as a result of the strike at Wentzville.
"That's the choice the companies made," Fain said about the layoffs. "The companies didn't have to lay these workers off. It was a choice. They're trying to intimidate workers, but we'll take care of our workers, no matter what we have to do."
Fain said 20% not-compounded wage increases offered by the automakers "is not enough," after what the union sacrificed to save the companies during the Great Recession and bankruptcies. The UAW originally requested 40% not compounded (46% compounded) wage increases, which has since dropped to 36%.
Fain said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the elimination of tiers remains one of the key issues over which an agreement between the parties remains fraught. The companies have suggested reducing the timeline to get to the top wage to four years, down from eight, while the UAW wants it to take just 90 days.
The White House said on Sunday it's sending top aides to President Joe Biden to Detroit to help with securing an agreement.
"This battle is not about the president," Fain said on MSNBC. "It's not about the former president or any other person prior to that. This battle is about the workers standing up for economic and social justice and getting their fair share because they're fed up with going backward."
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