Detroit was on edge Thursday as the auto workers union stood poised for a historic strike of “Big Three” automakers as a midnight deadline approached.
Negotiations continued throughout Thursday, but a fiery presentation by United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain set the stage for a likely stoppage after midnight going into Friday morning with the expiration of contracts at General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis.
Barring a last-minute agreement with one or more of the companies, the union plans to announce at 10:00 pm Thursday which locals will participate in the strike, with the majority of workers remaining on the job, Fain said late Wednesday.
General Motors upped its offer Thursday, lifting its proposed wage increase to 20 percent. The company had previously proposed an 18 percent rise, according to the UAW.
“We continue to bargain in good faith, but with our contract set to expire at 11:59 pm, I want to make sure you are completely informed,” GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said in a letter to its hourly employees that also touted the package’s healthcare and retirement provisions.
“We are working with urgency and have proposed yet another increasingly strong offer with the goal of reaching an agreement tonight,” Barra said. “Remember: we had a strike in 2019 and nobody won.”
Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley expressed frustration at the quiet state of activity as the hours ticked by. Ford had expected a busy day Thursday, but “nothing is going on,” he told CNBC.
Asked by the network about the effects of a strike at a Livonia, Michigan transmission plant that has been rumored, Farley said such a stoppage could prompt closures within “hours or days” at assembly plants that rely on Livonia.
Farley said Ford would have gone bankrupt if the UAW’s current demands would have been included in the expiring four-year contract.
Stellantis did not respond to a request for fresh comment. The company said Wednesday night its “focus remains on bargaining in good faith” to reach an agreement.
In his presentation Wednesday, Fain described the plan of a gradually expanding strike as aiming to keep the companies off balance and maximize the union’s bargaining position.
“It is long past time to stand up for the working class, to stand up for our communities and to stand up against unchecked corporate greed,” Fain said.