STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (FOX 2) - A historic strike has begun in Detroit and around the U.S., as the UAW has targeted plants owned by the Detroit Big Three all at the same time after the two parties failed to negotiate a contract before a midnight deadline.
The first three plants targeted for strikes are in Ohio, Missouri, and in Michigan.
"Gotta start somewhere," President Shawn Fain said after arriving at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, the factory owned by Ford and selected by the union. "We got a playbook we're going to play by.
"This is about our members tonight. We're going to take care of our members."
He said the union would strike as long as it had to "until we get our share of economic justice."
Earlier Thursday, Fain called on UAW Local 2250, which represents General Motors in Wentzville, Missouri, Local 12 in Toledo, Ohio, and Local 900 in Wayne, Michigan to walk off the line if no deal was reached.
A lot is on the line for the 150,000 plant workers around the U.S. and the Detroit Big Three as the industry faces a pivotal moment. As it pivots away from gas-powered cars and trucks and toward electric vehicles, the 2023 negotiations will be the UAW's best chance to deliver on higher wages and better benefits before that shift becomes established.
On the first day of the strike, about 13,000 workers were included. They seek better pay, benefits, and protections against inflation.
The three factories the president announced are the first of what could be a scaled-up strike against the Detroit Big Three. Some experts saying transmission and engine plants could be other locations that are hit.
Those that continue working will do so under their current contract.
The targeted factories include:
- Michigan Assembly Plant is where Ford manufacturers its trucks
- Toledo Assembly Complex is where Stellantis makes its Jeep
- Wentzville Assembly Center is where General Motors builds its SUVs
In a statement from Ford, it said the UAW submitted its first counterproposal hours before the expiration of its contract.
"Unfortunately, the UAW’s counterproposal tonight showed little movement from the union’s initial demands submitted Aug. 3," it said in a statement. "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."
General Motors said it was disappointed in the actions of the union, "despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments. We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the U.S. In the meantime, our priority is the safety of our workforce."
Stellantis reiterated the same sentiment:
"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. 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."
Preparing to strike
Earlier Thursday, preparations were also being made at multiple spots along Van Dyke in Sterling Heights, targeting Ford and Stellantis plants. Plastic fencing has been erected at multiple locations to keep workers safe in the event they're called upon to strike, says UAW Local 1700 President Charles Bell.
"Everyone is fired up and they're willing to fight for what they believe they deserve," he said Thursday prior to Fain's announcement.
Bell's chapter represents approximately 7,000 workers. He said he's been in talks with city officials in the event his group is called upon.
"Look at CEOs pay and look at what workers are being paid," he said "None of us are saying we should make the same as a CEO, but your workforce, especially a unionized workforce should be making enough to feed a family and take care of the things that working class people need to take care of."
Bell is posted up at a rented office that's serving as a hub.
Workers like Fain and if called upon to walk off the line, Bell said they are ready.
"He's a good guy. I'm glass to have him where he's out and if he says march, we'll march."
There aren't just questions about what plants could cease production. Many aren't sure how long it could last, either. Some analysts said during an episode of Let It Rip that 10 days seems like a possible range.
"I personally don't see a long protest," said Bell. "There's too much money at stake for companies and at some point, the shareholders are going to be pissed off seeing vehicles not being produced."