Washington, Sept 29 (EFE).- The auto workers’ strike in the United States escalated Friday with the United Auto Workers’ decision to shut down two more assembly plants, while Ford accused the union of trying to hurt the automaker.
UAW President Shawn Fain made good on his warnings, adding two more assembly plants to the 41 already on strike. The new plants are the Ford plant in Chicago and the General Motors plant in Lansing Delta Township, Michigan.
Following Fain’s announcement, about 25,000 workers at GM, Ford and Stellantis ( maker of Fiat, Maserati, Jeep and Peugeot, among other brands) have walked off the job. About 18 percent of UAW’s membership.
“Ford and GM refused to make meaningful progress,” the UAW president said on Facebook as he called for the strike to escalate.
Fain justified the union’s decision not to include Stellantis in this latest round of walkouts by saying that the company had presented the union with an offer earlier Friday that represented “significant progress” on cost-of-living increases and the right of workers to strike.
On Sept. 22, when the UAW announced the first expansion of the strike to 38 more work sites, the union had spared Ford for its constructive bargaining at that time.
The companies’ reactions
Shortly after Fain’s announcement, Ford CEO Jim Farley appeared before the press and said the UAW’s unusual strategy of declaring simultaneous rolling strikes at all three major US automakers was aimed at creating “industrial chaos.”
Farley also accused the UAW of not telling its members the truth, of threatening workers’ futures, and of not bargaining in good faith even though the company has put a deal on the table that he called “historic.”
“What’s really frustrating is that I believe we would’ve reached a compromise on pay and benefits but so far the UAW is holding the deal hostage over battery plants,” Farley said, noting that it appeared to him that the union’s actions were “premeditated.”
GM said in a statement signed by Gerald Johnson, executive vice president of global manufacturing, that they’re trying to reach an agreement “so we can all get back to work” but that “calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress.”
“The number of people negatively impacted by these strikes is growing and includes our customers who buy and love the products we build. Our current, record proposal that is on the table offers historic wage increases and job security while not jeopardizing our future,” said GM’s statement.
For its part, Stellantis said in a statement that it is still working to reach an agreement that meets the workers’ demands and ensures that the company can remain competitive in the face of fierce market competition.
“We have made progress in our discussions, but gaps remain,” the company said. “We are committed to continue working through these issues in an expeditious manner to reach a fair and responsible agreement that gets everyone back to work as soon as possible.”EFE