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17 Sep 2023

USA: Historic auto workers strike against Ford, General Motors & Stellantis has implications for labour rights & just energy transition

In September 2023, the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) began a strike against the "Big Three' automakers in the United States: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. The UAW declared the strike after contract talks between it and the automakers failed, with about 13,000 UAW members participating in the strike. The UAW President Shawn Fain shared a list of demands from the union that includes:

  • Eliminating wage tiers.
  • A 40% wage increase over the life of the contract. The 40% signifies the increase in CEO salaries.
  • Restoring the cost-of-living allowance adjustments to counteract inflation.
  • Defined benefit pension for all workers.
  • The right to strike over plant closures.
  • A reduced work week and more paid time off.
  • Limiting the use of temporary workers.
  • Increased benefits to current retirees.

In a statement, Ford said it has "bargained in good faith in an effort to avoid a strike, which could have wide-ranging consequences for our business and the economy." A General Motors statement said the company is "disappointed by the UAW leadership’s actions, despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments... [General Motors 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 US." In a Stellantis statement, the company said, "[w]e 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."

Despite potential set backs for the rollout of electric vehicles, environmental groups released a statement in support of the UAW strike, noting that "[o]nly through meeting [the UAW's] demands will the United States ensure a just transition to a renewable energy future.” The UAW has also stated that it supports the push for electric vehicles and the transition to a clean auto industry.