Time has run out to avert a strike at America’s unionized automakers.
The United Auto Workers contracts expired at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday. The contracts covered 145,000 UAW members at the three companies: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, which builds vehicles under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler brands for North America.
With no deal reached by the contract expiration, the union said it has started targeted strikes against three facilities – one at each company.
Here’s what to know now that the strike has begun:
Where have workers walked off the job?
UAW President Shawn Fain announced that workers at a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford plant in Wayne, Michigan, would go on strike. Workers walked off the job there, picketing outside the plants Friday morning.
It might not take much to virtually shut down the output from all the companies. They operate a complex network of plants that depend on getting parts from different facilities.
Slowing or stopping the production of a few engine or transmission plants at each company could be as effective at stopping operations as a full strike at all plants, according to industry experts.
Key numbers motivating the UAW members:
$32.32: The hourly wage for most of the UAW members at GM, Ford and Stellantis
$18: The starting wage of a UAW worker
$15: The starting wage for temporary workers
Those wages haven’t adjusted for inflation, which rose significantly over the past two years.
Will the automakers negotiate?
Based on their latest reports, Ford and GM are now offering a 20% raise during the life of the contract, and Stellantis is offering 17.5%. The union started with a demand for an immediate 20%, and four additional raises of 5% each over the course of a four-year deal.
GM CEO Mary Barra sent a letter to employees Thursday saying the company’s latest offer now includes a 20% raise, with an immediate 10% pay hike. The lower-paid temporary employees would get $20 an hour, which represents at 20% raise from current $16.67 an hour they receive.
Ford CEO Jim Farley told CNN that an offer from Ford of a 20% raise over the life of the contract is the most lucrative offer the company has made to the union in the 80 years it has been there. But he said meeting the union’s demands of close to a 40% raise, along with a four-day work week and other benefit improvements, would have been unaffordable.
Farley blamed the union for the lack of progress in negotiations. But the union has blamed the companies for waiting until the end of August or early September to make their first counteroffers.
Anger is mounting with Stellantis:
Stellantis is making greater use of lower-paid temporary workers than the other automakers. Eliminating or at least limiting use of temporary workers is a major issue for the union.
And there is still more anger at Stellantis after former executives of the company were caught giving bribes to former union officials, says Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations school in Buffalo.
Many of the members who are angry at the corruption scandal that resulted in two recent UAW presidents going to prison are angry with Stellantis as well.