UAW announces first locals to strike while others continue to work without a contract
In a Thursday night livestream, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain announced the first Local UAW Chapters to go on strike under a new "stand-up strike" system which aims to save the UAW money while keeping automakers guessing on where strikes may happen next.
The following UAW chapters, as announced by Fain, will begin their strike at the strike of midnight heading into Friday:
- General Motors Wentzville Assembly, Local 2250
- Stellantis Toledo Assembly, Local 12
- Ford Michigan Assembly, Final Assembly and Paint Only, Local 900
The Stellantis Assembly in Toledo, Ohio employs just over 4,420 workers and produces the Jeep Gladiator, Jeep Wrangler, and Jeep Wrangler 4xe.
The General Motors Assembly in Wentzville, Missouri has over 4,100 employees. That facility is responsible for producing the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickups, as well as the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans.
The Ford Assembly in Wayne, Michigan has just under 5,000 workers, producing the company's popular Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco models.
The new "stand up strike" system, announced in a Wednesday night livestream by Fain, was likely designed as a way to save the UAW the cost of paying its entire membership $500 per week while they remain on strike. If the entire UAW were to strike at once, according to AP, their coffers would run dry in just under three months.
Instead, the "stand-up strike" format would have only select UAW locals on strike, while others continue to work under expired contracts.
The UAW's chosen strikes seem to have taken initial criticism of the format into consideration, as the chapters announced for strike on Thursday affect only final assembly, and not parts facilities as initially reported. Still, it's unclear whether the lack of demand at the top of the supply chain will result in layoffs at parts manufacturing facilities.
According to Fain on Wednesday's livestream, the system is designed to "keep automakers guessing," and allows the UAW more freedom to punish automakers if they continue to bring "insulting" proposals to the negotiating table.
While Fain spent over ten minutes Wednesday saying the plan was "driven by faith" and urging workers to "believe in the fight," it was clear that many were unhappy with the stand-up strike proposal, even before it was announced.
Many took to the chat in the livestream to express concerns that workers down the production chain from striking workers may be laid off in lieu of parts shortages, putting them in positions where they won't be paid by the UAW as striking workers but may also be denied unemployment benefits.
"Unemployment is an absolute joke. Members will be hurting BIG TIME without everyone going on strike," said one commenter.
Another commenter, in response to another person talking about the $500 per week UAW strike pay, said "Only striking plants get that.... Most of us will be laid off and get nothing!! States are gonna deny the unemployment claims ... They already told [people] that."
While it's unclear whether or not any states have expressly stated they would deny claims from auto workers, CBS news reports that "there are legal questions about qualifying for unemployment" under the conditions of a strike farther up on the supply chain.
In all but two states, striking workers do not qualify for unemployment, and while laid of workers may not be striking themselves, state employment boards may argue that their union is on strike, thereby making them ineligible for benefits.
21 News has reached out to the UAW for comment on if it has any contingency plan to help workers who could be laid off, but has not gotten any response.
General Motors and Stellantis both refused to comment on how long their assembly plants, which assemble final vehicles for sale, could last in the midst of supply shortages in parts facilities, but otherwise stated they are doing their best to negotiate a good faith contract before the deadline Thursday.
As of Thursday night, Ford has not responded to a request for comment.