The United Auto Workers and Detroit’s Big Three automakers have resumed negotiations aimed at ending a strike now in its fourth day, and under threat that the walkout could soon expand.
Stellantis said it resumed negotiations with the union on Monday and called the talks “constructive.” A General Motors spokesperson said representatives from the company and the United Auto Workers union were also continuing negotiations.
However, UAW President Shawn Fain said on NPR, “We have a long way to go” and if companies don’t meet the union’s demands, “then we will escalate our actions.”
In a video statement Monday evening, Fain said other factories could be targeted if “serious progress” toward a deal was not reached by midday Friday.
“We’re not joking,” he said.
So far, the strike is limited to about 13,000 workers at three plants: one at GM, one at Ford and one at Stellantis, the successor to Fiat Chrysler.
However, the union’s strategy depends on its ability to quickly escalate the strike, and automakers are warning of possible layoffs as the limited strike reduces the amount of equipment needed at factories that remain open.
GM said Monday that 2,000 UAW-represented workers at a Kansas City assembly plant “are expected to be idled starting early this week” because of a shortage of supplies at a GM plant near St. Louis , where workers walked out. Friday.
Workers at the Kansas City plant build the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac XT4.
The strike could begin to affect suppliers and their employees as well. CIE Newcor told Michigan officials it expects a monthlong shutdown of four plants in the state starting Oct. 2 and putting nearly 300 workers out of work.
In a sign of concern about the potential economic and political fallout from the strike, the Biden administration has stepped up its response.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she hoped for a quick resolution, while adding that it was too early to assess the impact of the strike.
“It is premature to make predictions about what this means for the economy. It will depend on how long the strike lasts and who is affected by it,” she said on CNBC.
Yellen said labor activism this year — strikes by Hollywood writers and actors, workers at about 150 Starbucks locations and narrowly averted walkouts at United Parcel Service and West Coast ports — has been driven by a strong labor market and strong demand for workers.
President Joe Biden is sending two senior administration officials to Detroit to meet with both sides. Biden supported the UAW in brief public comments, saying automakers had not shared their record profits fairly with workers.
An administration official said Monday that acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and her top aide Gene Sperling would not serve as mediators — they would not be at the negotiating table — but would travel to Detroit “to help support negotiations in any manner that the parties deem appropriate. constructive.” The official was not authorized to discuss private discussions and spoke anonymously.
Fain said the Biden administration would not negotiate a deal
President Joe Biden announced he would send two members of his staff to help the United Auto Workers union and the Big Three automakers negotiate a new contract.
“This is our battle. Our members are on the picket lines,” he said Monday on MSNBC. “This fight is not about the president, it’s not about the former president” — a reference to reports that former President Donald Trump plans to skip debate for Republican presidential candidates to meet with striking auto workers in Detroit next week.
A key part of the UAW’s strategy is the threat of strike escalation if the union is unhappy with the pace of negotiations.
On Monday, Ford workers on a picket line outside a plant in the Detroit suburb of Wayne were joined by members of other unions and the occasional politician.
Tevita Uhatafe, an aircraft maintenance worker from Arlington, Texas, showed her support and saw what it could look like if UAW members struck a GM truck plant in her hometown.
“This is a fight that will most likely take place in our backyard,” Uhatafe said.
U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, Democrat of Michigan, said she participated in the picket because the strike “highlights a modern movement for justice and equity among workers.”
Associated Press writer Mike Householder in Wayne, Michigan, contributed to this report. Koenig reported from Dallas.