Auto workers stop expanding strikes against Detroit Three after GM makes battery plant concession

File - United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain talks with members picketing near a General Motors Assembly Plant in Delta Township, Mich., Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Fain will update members on bargaining with Detroit's three automakers on Friday afternoon, (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

DETROIT (AP) — The United Auto Workers union said Friday it will not expand its strikes against Detroit’s three automakers after General Motors made a breakthrough concession on unionizing electric vehicle battery plants.

The announcement of the pause in adding factories to the strikes came minutes after GM agreed to bring workers at battery factories into the UAW’s national contract, essentially assuring they will represented by the union.


“We have had a major breakthrough that has not only dramatically changed negotiations, but is going to change the future of our union and the future of our industry,” union President Shawn Fain told workers Friday in a video appearance.

Fain, wearing a T-shirt that said “Eat the Rich” in bold letters to back his contention that it’s time for the working class to make gains over billionaires, said the UAW is wining at GM and expects to do the same at Ford and Stellantis.

Neither GM nor Stellantis commented directly on unionization of battery factories, but Ford stuck to statements that workers will have to choose once they are hired at plants that haven’t even been built.

“We remain open to the possibility of working with the UAW on future battery plants in the U.S., reminding that these are multibillion-dollar investments and have to operate at sustainably competitive levels,” Ford said in a statement.

Fain told workers that additional plants could be added to the strikes later. He said GM made the change after the union threatened to strike at a plant in Arlington, Texas, that makes highly profitable large SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon.

“Today, under the threat of a major financial hit, they leapfrogged the pack in terms of a just transition” from combustion engines to electric vehicles, he said.

The union, he said, has seen significant progress in talks with all three companies. Ford’s general wage offer, for instance, is up to 23% over four years, after starting at 9%. GM and Stellantis, he said, are at 20%. None of the raises is big enough but they’re further along, he said.

Ford and Stellantis, Fain said, have agreed to return to a cost-of-living pay raise formula that the union gave up in 2007 as the automakers were in financial trouble. Both sides remain far apart on pension increases for workers hired before 2007 and a switch from defined-contribution to defined-benefit pensions for those hired later.

“Our strike is working, but we’re not there yet,” Fain said.

In addition to the economic issues, the union has long sought assurances that it would represent workers at 10 U.S. battery factories proposed by the companies.

The automakers have said the plants, mostly joint ventures with South Korean battery makers, had to be bargained separately.

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