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UAW president: “We are preparing to strike these companies in a way they’ve never seen before”

UAW president Shawn Fain wears a red shirt and looks into the camera during an online video update for the union's members.
UAW union on YouTube
A screenshot of UAW President Shawn Fain giving an update on contract talks during a YouTube live stream on Wednesday.

In an impassioned online update Wednesday, UAW president Shawn Fain told members the union is preparing an unprecedented strike against the Detroit Three carmakers if a deal can’t be reached by 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

Fain said for the first time ever, the UAW may strike all three carmakers at once, but if workers walk out, they’ll do so only at a select number of factories.

“We will not strike all of our facilities at once,” Fain told members in the video, which was streamed live on Facebook and YouTube.

“We will strike all three companies, a historic first, initially at a limited number of targeted locations that we will be announcing,” Fain said. “Then, based on what’s happening in bargaining, we’re going to announce more locals that are going to stand up and strike.”

Fain called the new strike tactic a “stand up strike,” a name that echoes the union’s famous sit-down strike in Flint in 1936. “Just as in the 1930s we’re living in a time of stunning inequality in our society,” Fain said, casting the union’s fight as one between the working class and the rich.

"I’m at peace with the decision to strike if we have to because I know that we are on the right side in this battle,” Fain said. “It’s a battle of the working class against the rich — the haves versus the have-nots, the billionaire class against everybody else.”

Fain also updated members on where the current talks stand with each of the three carmakers, providing a window into negotiations that previous UAW presidents have hidden until the final deal was reached. Fain said the union remains “very far apart” from the carmakers on key issues and said a strike appears likely.

The union is seeking a mid-30% wage increase over four years, cost-of-living increases, expanded benefits, and and end to a two-tier wage system that sets pay scales for new workers lower than veteran workers.

The companies have said those demands are unrealistic, and they need to preserve their ability to be competitive and invest profits in electric vehicle development and production.

GM said in a statement Thursday that it has "presented additional strong offers to the UAW" and was "making progress in key areas."

Ford said its executives "laid out a historically generous offer."

"If there is a strike, it's not because Ford didn't make a great offer," said a statement attributed to the company's president and CEO, Jim Farley.

The full video of Fain's presentation to UAW members and the media is below:

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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