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United Auto Workers launch historic strike against Big 3 automobile manufacturers

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain (Image Source: United Auto Workers Twitter video screenshot)

For the first time, the United Auto Workers union launched a simultaneous strike against the Big Three automobile manufacturers after contract negotiations fell through by the union's Thursday deadline.

The UAW represents nearly 150,000 workers at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. As of Friday morning, 13,000 members were directed to go on strike under union president Shawn Fain's "stand up strike" strategy.

"This is a strike that starts small and builds over time as more and more of us stand up and join the fight," Fain said in a Wednesday statement. "This is a strike that keeps the companies guessing as to where and when the next local will walk out."

"And just as importantly, we are striking the Big Three," Fain continued. "All three. We told them September 14th is a deadline and we meant it. The Big Three have made a quarter-trillion dollars over the last 10 years. They made $21 billion in profits in the first half of this year alone. We will not stand by as corporate executives and the rich continue to make extraordinary profits while the rest of us continue to get left further and further behind."

A departure from the union's traditional striking strategies, which generally involve all unionized workers, the UAW hopes its new targeted approach will gradually increase the pressure on the companies and prompt them to negotiate a favorable deal with workers. This also marks the first time the UAW has attempted to negotiate with all three automakers simultaneously.

So far, workers from the General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Stellantis assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio, and a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, have been asked to walk off the job, NPR reported.

Fain, the first democratically elected UAW leader, stated that the union aims to "bargain a fair contract." He is also pushing for protections for workers as the automakers shift to electric vehicle manufacturing.

"We didn't want to be here. We want a fair agreement. We want fair economic and social justice for our members. That's what this is all about. And it's a shame," Fain said.

On Wednesday, during a Facebook Live event, Fain explained that the Big Threes' profits were up 65% over the past four years while the workers' wages increased only 6%.

"We are extremely disappointed by the UAW leadership's refusal to engage in a responsible manner to reach a fair agreement in the best interest of our employees, their families, and our customers," Stellantis stated, NBC News reported. "We immediately put the company in contingency mode and will take all the appropriate structural decisions to protect our North American operations and the company."

GM claimed that it offered "historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments" to reach a deal with the union.

"Today, we put a compelling and unprecedented economic package on the table that reflects the significance of this critical moment," GM said in a Thursday statement. "We've worked days, nights, and weekends since receiving the UAW's demands. We have been bargaining in good faith to deliver a better package with historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments, recognizing your contributions to our company — past, present, and future."

"It addresses what you've told us is most important to you, in spite of the heated rhetoric from UAW leadership," GM noted.

On Wednesday evening, Ford said, "On the key economic issues that matter most to our UAW-represented employees, Ford has submitted four proposals to the UAW since Aug. 29. The last offer Ford submitted was historically generous, with large wage increases, cost of living adjustments, more paid time off, additional retirement contributions and more."

"If implemented, the proposal would more than double Ford's current UAW-related labor costs, which are already significantly higher than the labor costs of Tesla, Toyota and other foreign-owned automakers in the United States that utilize non-union-represented labor," Ford continued, calling the UAW's terms "unsustainable."

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