UAW members at the Detroit 3 agreed to let the union call a strike if contract talks break down with a Sept. 14 deadline looming, as reported by our sister publication Automotive News.
About 97 percent of workers who voted cast their ballot in favor of authorizing a strike, the UAW said Friday. The vote is a routine part of contract negotiations and does not necessarily mean a strike will occur.
"The only way we're ever going to have a better quality of life for ourselves and our families is if we fight for it," UAW President Shawn Fain said Friday morning on a Facebook livestream. "Employers don't give higher wages or better benefits out of the kindness of their hearts. They give it because the union bargains and we make them, and that's exactly what 97 percent of you said you're ready to do."
Fain and other union leaders have been preparing workers for a potential strike since negotiations with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis began last month. Fain said the Sept. 14 expiration of the companies' current labor contracts is "a deadline, not a reference point."
He said Friday that he has requested counterproposals to the UAW’s demands from the automakers next week.
Fain said his goal isn't to strike the automakers but rather to achieve good contracts.
The union this week is holding practice pickets with workers in Detroit and Louisville, Ky. The UAW has raised its weekly strike pay to $500 per member and has more than $825 million in its strike fund.
In 2019, the union struck GM for 40 days, causing production shutdowns that reverberated with dealers and suppliers caught in the crossfire.
Support for a strike was slightly higher than the 96 percent who agreed to let the union call one in 2019. The union needs the support of two-thirds of its members to call a strike.
Officials did not say how many of the UAW’s 146,000 members at the Detroit 3 voted.
Fain has not ruled out going on strike against all three automakers at once. If that were to happen, a 10-day strike would result in more than $5 billion in economic losses, according to an analysis by Anderson Economic Group.
That estimate includes wage losses of $795 million and manufacturer losses of $1.2 billion, plus the financial hit to suppliers, dealers and the auto industry at large.
UAW officials say they’re ready to take a stand against the companies if they refuse to offer fair deals.
“Stellantis has made astronomical profits over the last decade and recently announced they made a record $12 billion in profits in the first half of this year,” UAW Vice President Rich Boyer, who heads negotiations with Stellantis, said in a statement.
“This strike vote is a warning to Stellantis: We know the company can afford our demands and we are united and willing to do what it takes to win them.”
Fain last week said negotiations with the automakers were moving too slowly.
"This isn't just a strike vote," he said Aug. 15. "It's a demonstration of our strength. It's a sign of our unity. It's a statement about our resolve, so if we want to make progress at the bargaining table, we need to show the companies it's not just talk."