The United Auto Workers union said it would announce Friday more U.S. plants to strike if no serious progress was made in talks with automakers, bolstered by employees urging the union to hold firm in eliminating wage gaps that affect newer workers the most.
The UAW last week launched a strike against Ford, General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis, targeting one U.S. assembly plant at each company. It is the first time the UAW has taken action simultaneously against all three Detroit automakers.
It was not clear when main-table bargaining was resuming after lengthy talks on Monday. Concerns are mounting among some auto officials and congressional aides that no deal will be reached before the Friday noon deadline. Workers on the picket lines in Toledo, Ohio, on Tuesday said the union should stay the course.
'AS LONG AS IT TAKES'
"I’m going to vote no on the contract until they get it right. I know we won’t get everything, but we gave up a lot in 2008 with the recession," said Laura Zielinski, 55, who has worked at the Stellantis Jeep plant in Toledo for more than 28 years.
"I’ll do it as long as it takes,” Zielinski said.
The U.S. strike is now in its fifth day with little sign of progress toward a deal. Some 12,700 of the UAW's 150,000 total members who work at the Big Three are on strike, and analysts expect plants that build more profitable pickup trucks like Ford's F-150, GM's Chevy Silverado and Stellantis' Ram would be the next targets if the walkout continues.
U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said on Tuesday her message to automakers and the UAW was to stay at the table and “listen to each other.” The White House said on Tuesday that acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and adviser Gene Sperling will continue to speak to all sides from Washington rather than travel to Detroit.
The union and companies are at loggerheads over pay and benefits for workers. The three automakers have proposed 20% raises over the 4-1/2-year term of their proposed deals, though that is only half of what the UAW is demanding through 2027.
Workers have pressed for the automakers to eliminate their tiered pay structure that pays newer workers much less for the same jobs as veterans.
“We don’t get no profit sharing. We don’t get full benefits," said Esperanza Ledesma, 32, a supplemental employee who has worked at the Toledo plant for a year. "I make more waitressing. You know what I’m saying? I’m struggling."
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said it was premature to forecast the strike's impact on the economy, which would depend on how long the action lasted and what was affected.
The strikes have halted production at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, alongside other popular models.
Ford on Friday furloughed 600 workers who are not on strike at the Michigan Bronco plant because of the impact of the work stoppage. GM said it expected to halt operations at its Kansas car plant early this week because of the strike at its nearby Missouri plant, affecting 2,000 workers.
'SUBSTANTIVE OFFER' IN CANADA
Separately, a Canadian union extended its deadline for negotiations at Ford's operations in Canada by one day. Ford's contract with Canadian union Unifor, which represents about 5,600 workers at three plants in Canada, expired at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday (0359 GMT on Tuesday).
Unifor said early on Tuesday that negotiations had been extended for 24 hours after it received a "substantive offer" from Ford but that Unifor members should "maintain strike readiness."
A walkout by Canadian workers that shut those engine plants could cripple U.S. production of Ford's most profitable vehicles, even if the UAW decides not to order walkouts at truck plants in Kentucky; Dearborn, Michigan; and Kansas City, Missouri.
Ford said it had agreed to continue negotiations beyond the deadline in hopes of reaching a tentative agreement.
© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.