United Auto Workers delivered back-to-back blows with walkouts

INDIANA – The United Auto Workers union delivered back-to-back blows with walkouts at two major plants — its boldest move yet in the five-week-old strike against the Big Three US automakers.

On Tuesday morning, 5,000 workers staged an unannounced walkout at a plant in Arlington, Texas, that builds GM’s SUVs, including the Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade. That came just 24 hours after a surprise strike by 6,800 workers at a Stellantis plant located in Sterling Heights, Michigan where its Ram trucks are built. 

The new strike adds a further 6,800 union members to the picket line, with roughly 40,000 members currently striking following an initial round of strike targets announced last month.

Both plants are big moneymakers for GM and Stellantis, the conglomerate that owns Chrysler. And the timing is no coincidence.

On Tuesday, GM reported stronger-than-expected earnings for the third quarter, just hours before the surprise walkout. Ford reports earnings on Thursday, and the European-based Stellantis is due to disclose sales and revenue data next week.

“Another record quarter, another record year,” UAW President Shawn Fain said Tuesday. “As we’ve said for months: record profits equal record contracts. It’s time GM workers, and the whole working class, get their fair share.” 

GM called the move “unnecessary and irresponsible,” as the company and the union were making progress at the bargaining table.

Last week, UAW President Shawn Fain delivered a summary of contract negotiations with the Big Three Detroit automakers (GM, Ford, and Stellantis), detailing the latest contract offers from each. The union has yet to agree to any of the current proposals but did highlight which automakers offered the best proposals with regard to wage tiers, cost of living allowance (COLA), temp employees, and more.

The latest strike expansion against Stellantis follows a shift in the UAW’s “Stand Up Strike” strategy, with the union now calling for walkouts with little prior notice. The union previously announced strike expansions on Fridays.

UAW Local 440 members at GM Bedford Casting Operations in Bedford are ready to hit the picket lines.

Derek Cronin

“We are ready to stand up and fight when called upon,” said Local UAW Local 440 President Derek Cronin.

“Right now this fight is about not getting the dignity and respect we deserve,” added Cronin. “For the long hours and work we put in. We work seven days a week 12 hours a day. That work needs to be dignified. This is about the working class the ones that work for a living. 

There are 550 union members of the Bedford GM Powertrain plant and approximately 703 employees in total. The Bedford plant is served by two unions the United Auto Workers which represent the production workers and the International Brother Electrical Workers which represent the skill trades.

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UAW 440 union members at Harp Commons.

General Motors exceeded financial expectations in the quarter despite losing $200 million during the first two weeks of the strike, plus hundreds of millions more during the first three weeks of this month. With Arlington going on strike, those weekly losses are likely to jump. 

GM says it has offered the UAW a record contract with the pay scale increasing 23% over the life of the contract that runs through 2028, along with cost-of-living adjustments to protect workers from rising prices and larger contributions to their retirement accounts.

But Fain has argued that despite record offers from all three companies, “there is more to be won.” In his view, the companies need to do more to make up for the union’s concessions in 2007 and 2009, when the automakers were on the ropes.

“GM’s latest offer fails to reward UAW members for the profits they’ve generated,” the union said. “It is clear that GM can afford a record contract and do more to repair the harm done by years of falling real wages and declining standards across the Big Three.”

CNN contributed to this story.