Strikes against automakers spread to 38 locations in 20 states, including 2 in Colorado

Posted at 8:39 PM, Sep 22, 2023

The United Auto Workers expanded its strike against major automakers Friday, walking out of 38 General Motors and Stellantis parts distribution centers in 20 states.

Two of those are in Colorado- the General Motors plant in Aurora and the Stellantis plant in Commerce City.

5,600 additional workers joined the strike on top of the 13,000 of the 146,000 members that began the strike one week ago.

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Ford was spared additional strikes because the company has met some of the union’s demands during negotiations over the past week, said UAW President Shawn Fain.

“We’ve made some real progress at Ford,” Fain said during an online presentation to union members. “We still have serious issues to work through, but we do want to recognize that Ford is showing that they are serious about reaching a deal.”

“At GM and Stellantis, it’s a different story,” he said. Those companies, he said, have rejected the union’s proposals for cost-of-living increases, profit sharing, and job security.

The union is pointing to the companies’ huge recent profits as it seeks wage increases of 36% over four years. The companies have offered a little over half that amount. The UAW has other demands, including a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay and a restoration of traditional pension plans for newer workers.

The companies say they can’t afford to meet the union’s demands because they need to invest profits in a costly transition from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles. But local UAW president Sherman Atkinson told Denver7 it is time for workers to share in the high profits that automakers have seen in recent years.

"We're not the greedy auto workers," Atkinson said. "It's time for us to stand up. Record contracts equal record profits."

Shawn Kelly, who serves as chairman at the GM distribution center in Aurora, joined Atkinson on the picket line outside the facility. Kelly said compensation needs to change so he and his coworkers can continue to live in the state amid the growing cost of living.

"I can be working next to somebody who's making almost double what I'm making," Kelly said. "It's definitely hard out here, especially in the state of Colorado, to make a living off these low wages."

The UAW’s contract with the automakers expired at midnight on Sept. 14, and workers walked out of a Ford assembly plant near Detroit, a GM factory in Wentzville, Missouri, and a Jeep plant run by Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio.

Fain said earlier this week he would call on workers at more plants to strike unless there was significant progress in contract negotiations with the carmakers. Bargaining continued Thursday, although neither side reported any breakthroughs, and they remained far apart on wage increases.

The companies have laid off thousands of workers, saying some factories are running short on parts because of the strike.

Still, the impact is not yet being felt on car lots around the country – it will probably take a few weeks before the strike causes a significant shortage of new vehicles, according to analysts. Prices could rise even sooner, however, if the prospect of a prolonged strike triggers panic buying.

The union is seeking pay raises of 36% over four years, an end to lower pay scales for new workers, and most boldly, a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay. The car companies say they can’t afford the union’s demands despite huge profits because they need to invest in the transformation to electric vehicles.

One week ago, workers went on strike a week ago at three assembly plants — a Ford factory near Detroit, a GM plant outside St. Louis, and a Jeep plant owned by Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio.

The Detroit News reported Thursday that a spokesman for Fain wrote on a private group chat on X, formerly Twitter, that union negotiators aimed to inflict “recurring reputation damage and operational chaos” on the carmakers, and “if we can keep them wounded for months they don’t know what to do.”

Ford and GM seized on the messages as a sign of bad faith by the UAW.

“It’s now clear that the UAW leadership has always intended to cause months-long disruption, regardless of the harm it causes to its members and their communities,” GM said in a statement.

Ford spokesman Mark Truby called the messages “disappointing, to say the least, given what is at stake for our employees, the companies and this region.”

The UAW spokesman, Jonah Furman, did not confirm writing the messages, which were linked to the same picture as his X account, and called them “private messages” that “you shouldn’t have,” the newspaper reported.

Denver7's Katie Perkins contributed to this report.
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