By Chris Isidore, CNN
New York (CNN) — The United Auto Workers union is expanding its strike to one additional assembly plant each at Ford and General Motors, but said progress in talks at Stellantis was keeping the union from expanding picket lines there.
UAW President Shawn Fain said the new facilities that will go on strike at noon Friday are Ford’s Chicago Assembly plant, which makes the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs, and GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan, which makes the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave SUVs. With those additional 7,000 members picking up picket signs, the total number of striking UAW members across all three automakers will reach over 25,000. Fain said his remarks Friday morning were delayed by last-minute negotiations at Stellantis, which makes vehicles under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler brands.
“We knew it was unlikely this was going to be quick,” Fain said about the strike’s duration on a livestreamed update. But, he said, “We’re excited about this momentum at Stellantis and hope it continues.”
The union had said all along it planned to expand the reach of the strike to increase pressure on the companies if it wasn’t satisfied with the progress of negotiations.
“To be clear, negotiations have not broken down,” Fain said. “We’re still talking with all three companies. and I’m still very hopeful we can reach a deal that reflects the incredible sacrifices and contributions that our members have made over the last decade.”
GM criticized the expansion of the strike.
“Calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress,” said a statement from Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing. “The number of people negatively impacted by these strikes is growing and includes our customers who buy and love the products we build. Our current, record proposal that is on the table offers historic wage increases and job security while not jeopardizing our future. We’re here to reach an agreement so we can all get back to work, and that remains our 100% focus.”
Stellantis said it is working hard to come up with an agreement with the union.
“We have made progress in our discussions, but gaps remain,” said a company statement. “We are committed to continue working through these issues in an expeditious manner to reach a fair and responsible agreement that gets everyone back to work as soon as possible.”
Ford did not have an immediate comment on the expansion of the strike there.
While the union has been on strike against all three unionized automakers for the first time in its history, the UAW started the walkouts on September 15 with a targeted work stoppage by 12,700 members at one assembly plant for each company.
A week ago it added a series of 38 parts and distribution centers operated in 20 states by GM and Stellantis, but did not expand the strike at Ford, saying that automaker had made significant progress in negotiations.
The four family SUVs built at the plants being added to the strike represent the bread and butter of the two companies’ lineups. While they aren’t the high-profit, high-volume sellers that the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado pickups represent, the production halt will be a challenge to Ford and GM’s bottom lines.
The three companies are on record each offering the union an immediate raise of at least 10% for the 145,000 UAW members at the companies and another 10 percentage points of general wage increases over the life of the proposed deal, which is due to run through spring of 2028.
But the union is seeking significantly larger wage increases as well as improved pension and health care benefits, reversing concessions in 2007 and 2009 when the automakers were all facing financial distress, and both GM and Stellantis predecessor Chrysler were on their way to bankruptcy and federal bailouts.
Now the companies are earning record or near-record profits, and the union is demanding “record contracts” accordingly.
The expansion of the strike comes three days after President Joe Biden became the first sitting president to visit a picket line. He told members that they deserved more than they’re being paid and urged them to stay strong in their demands.
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