Auto Giants GM, Stellantis Face New Layoffs Amid Intensifying UAW Strike & Negotiations

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On Wednesday, the auto manufacturers, General Motors and Stellantis reported new layoffs, attributing the cause to disruption from the ongoing United Auto Workers (UAW) strike. This news sparked further tension within the labor dispute, which was slated for intensification with expected calls for fresh strikes two days later.

Stellantis, however, offered a sliver of hope, presenting the union with a proposed new contract. The proposal principally focuses on non-economic issues, according to a company spokeswoman. Nevertheless, whether this proposition would pacify the UAW President, Shawn Fain, remains uncertain. Fain has made it clear he will announce new strike points by Friday unless significant improvement in negotiations is demonstrated with GM, Stellantis, and Ford.

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As it currently stands, UAW workers hold strikes in three separate factories which represent each of the industry’s heavy hitters: GM, Stellantis, and Ford. This marks a fresh approach for UAW, which, historically, directed its negotiation efforts towards one company at a time, as demonstrated by limiting a 2019 strike solely to GM. According to Fain, this new strategy keeps the corporations guessing as to the union’s next move.

Harry Katz, a collective bargaining professor at Cornell University, believes Fain differentiates himself from previous UAW leaders through his toughness in pressuring the companies.

Although the triple-plant strikes have had a limited effect on the automakers, industry insiders believe this measured impact is deliberate, acting as an incremental pressure tactic encouraging the companies to enter negotiations.

Concerning pressure, should negotiations stagnate by Friday, a more aggressive strategy may be in line, potentially leading to strikes in critical production areas. The most vulnerable automakers that may offer favorable deals stand at the forefront of these negotiations.

Simultaneously, planned strikes may severely disrupt key production points, such as Ford’s F-150 production, alongside strategic strikes against GM and Stellantis. A significant hit that could resultantly impair between 30% to 40% of the industry’s overall production.

Wind of potential strike targets comes from locations where UAW locals announced they would hold rallies and practice their picketing in the coming days. These include a Ford plant in Louisville, Kentucky, a GM plant in Bedford, Illinois, and a GM truck plant in Arlington, Texas.

Wednesday saw both GM and Stellantis announce layoffs in Kansas, Ohio, and Indiana. GM identified the cause of their layoffs to be the lack of work available following the UAW strike at its assembly plant near St. Louis and does not plan to restart the Kansas plant or provide supplemental pay until the strike concludes.

Asked for his response, a UAW spokesperson referenced a statement issued the previous weekend, whereby UAW President Fain alleged the layoffs were unjustified and merely a tactic to pressure workers into accepting less in the contract negotiations.

As negotiations continue between the two sides, the gap that separates them persists, with the UAW advocating for pay raises exceeding 30% over four years, restoration of defined-benefit pensions for all workers, and receiving 40 hours of pay for a 32-hour workweek, with companies offering around a 20% pay increase and firmly rejecting some of the union’s other demands.

Meanwhile, an isolated glimmer of progress between an automaker and a labor union took place in Canada, where Ford and Unifor, which represents Canadian auto workers, reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract just hours before the strike deadline. If ratified, the contract would cover more than 5,000 workers and set precedence for similar agreements at GM and Stellantis in Canada.