© Reuters. Striking United Auto Workers walk the picket line outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, U.S. September 17, 2023. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
By David Shepardson and Ben Klayman
(Reuters) -Talks between the United Auto Workers and the Detroit Three automakers continued on Monday as a strike by auto workers over pay dragged on for a fourth day with little sign of progress toward a deal.
Union negotiators and representatives of General Motors (NYSE:), Ford (NYSE:) and Stellantis (NYSE:) held talks over the weekend in an attempt to end one of the most ambitious U.S. industrial labor actions in decades. On Monday, the UAW held talks with Stellantis though no deal was reached. It had scheduled a new round of talks with Ford for late afternoon.
The coordinated strike, which has seen the union strike at all three automakers simultaneously for the first time, comes at a time when approval of labor unions among Americans is at its highest point in decades even as membership in unions fell for years before plateauing more recently.
About 12,700 UAW workers are on strike as part of a labor action targeting three U.S. assembly plants – one at each of the Detroit Three – after the prior four-year labor agreements expired. Analysts and industry executives question how long it will be before the UAW strikes at additional plants in a move to raise pressure on the automakers.
UAW President Shawn Fain told NPR Monday there were “minimal conversations over the weekend so the ball is in their court …. We have a long way to go.”
He said the UAW is ready to do what was necessary when asked whether it would extend the strike to other plants this week.
In a separate MSNBC interview, Fain said talks were moving slowly: “We’ll see how things progress the next few days and if we have to amp up pressure that is what we’re going to do.”
Canadian union Unifor said its contract with Ford expires at 11:59 pm Monday and that it had yet to reach agreement with the company, with the two sides still far apart in talks. The union warned members should be prepared for a possible strike.
Ford has an assembly plant and two engine plants in Canada with a total of about 5,000 union workers.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said it was premature to forecast the strike’s impact on the economy, which would depend on how long the action lasted and what was affected.
“President Biden has made clear he expects them to work hard – to negotiate 24/7 – to get to a solution,” Yellen said in the interview with CNBC. “And so we’re hoping that will happen soon.”
The strikes have halted production at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, alongside other popular models.
Ford on Friday indefinitely laid off 600 workers that are not on strike at the Michigan Bronco plant because of the impact of the work stoppage. GM says it expects to halt operations at its Kansas car plant this week because of the strike at its nearby Missouri plant, affecting 2,000 workers.
Analysts expect plants that build more profitable pickup trucks like Ford’s F-150, GM’s Chevy Silverado and Stellantis’s Ram to be the next strike targets if the walkout continues.
Shares of BlueScope Steel (OTC:) slipped to an over three-month low as the strike weighs on its North American business. The Australian steelmaker generated nearly 42% of its fiscal 2023 sales revenue from North America.
A number of high-profile lawmakers have visited picket lines in support of the UAW, including House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Sunday in Michigan.
The unions and companies are at loggerheads over pay and benefits for workers. The three automakers have proposed 20% raises over the four-and-a-half year term of their proposed deals, though that is only half of what the UAW is demanding through 2027. The UAW at one point during the talks offered to lower its demand to 36%.
Besides higher wages, the UAW is also demanding shorter work weeks, restoration of defined benefit pensions and stronger job security as automakers make the shift to electric vehicles.