Automotive workers in the U.S. had a series of strikes in September after their union failed to reach an agreement with three of the largest U.S. manufacturers over a new contract, kicking off the most ambitious union action in decades. The deadline for negotiations between Ford, General Motors, Stellantis and the United Auto Workers (UAW) expired on Sept. 15, at which point the sides were extremely far apart on the union’s vision for a new contract. This is the first time in U.S. history that all three Detroit automakers have gone on strike at the same time, the Guardian notes. The strikes first began at midnight at the General Motors plant in Wentzville, Missouri, the Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio, and the Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan. They involved a total of 12,700 workers at plants that are critical to the production of some of the Detroit Three’s most profitable vehicles, including the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck. The UAW union had a strike fund of $825 million, from which workers were paid $500 a week during the strike.
Among the union’s demands were a 40% wage increase, elimination of levels at which some workers are paid on a lower wage scale than others, and restoration of benefits from previous contracts, such as health benefits for retirees, more paid vacations and expanded eligibility for workers affected by plant closings. In arguing for their demands, workers cited past concessions and the Detroit Three’s huge profits. For example, the automakers’ profits jumped 92% from 2013 to 2022, totalling $250 billion. CEO pay at each of the plants increased an average of 40% over the same period, and nearly $66 billion was paid out in stock dividends or share repurchases to shareholders. The industry also received record taxpayer incentives for switching to electric vehicles. Meanwhile, since 2008, hourly wages for industry workers have fallen 19.3% when adjusted for inflation, drawing the righteous anger of labor unions amid the growing popularity of leftist ideas in the country.
The largest strike in modern history by workers at automobile plants in the United States symbolizes the economic and social crisis that is increasingly hitting the country. As a result, unions representing 146,000 workers have simultaneously halted production at all three U.S. auto giants, including GM, Ford and Stellantis/Chrysler. They demand not only a one-time wage increase of 36% due to high inflation, but also regular indexation of wages. In addition, workers fear the introduction of artificial intelligence that could replace them. They are also indignant about the multi-billion dollar subsidies from the White House for the production of electric cars, which risk killing many factories that produce cars with internal combustion engines. Almost from the very beginning of the strike, the unions have effectively paralyzed the entire North American auto industry. And this is just the beginning, because postal workers, as well as Amazon and FedEx couriers are threatening to join them, which could plunge the entire country into a logistical crisis. The timing of the large-scale strikes was very inconvenient. After all, inflation in the U.S. began to rise again, amounting to 3.7% in August. Food inflation and soaring fuel prices are to blame. Now there could also be a sharp rise in car prices due to production disruptions. Biden’s team tried until the last moment to somehow negotiate with the unions, but without success. But against this backdrop, Trump has become more active, supporting the striking workers, for whose votes he hopes to compete. And Trump wants to rock the situation in the country more intensely closer to the elections, although Biden himself is already coping quite successfully with inflation, energy crisis, strikes and the increasingly obvious paralysis of power in Washington.
Not surprisingly, the large-scale strike by workers at automobile plants in the United States continued for 46 days despite the White House’s attempts to find a compromise with labor unions. At stake is the future of the North American auto industry, which is sinking deeper into crisis with each day of the strike. This situation had a clear beneficiary, besides the already mentioned Trump, and that’s Elon Musk. His Tesla corporation, unlike the big three, including GM, Ford and Stellantis/Chrysler, denies its workers the right to unionize. And Tesla’s factories were continuing to operate as if nothing has happened while the entire operations of its competitors in the U.S. were paralyzed. After all, Musk, who has developed an outward image as a visionary of the future and a “simple guy,” is in reality an old-school rigid capitalist, ruthless to any phenomenon that might reduce his profits. The unions continued to demand a 30-50% wage increase, but Ford management blackmailed the strikers with the fact that then there would be no money left to switch to electric cars, and eventually Ford would be on the verge of bankruptcy, pulling all its employees with it. But that argument seemed mocked, as the unions themselves were equally outraged by the proliferation of electric cars that threaten jobs in factories that produce “traditional” transportation. So it was in Musk’s interest to make the strike as long and painful as possible, which could bankrupt his competitors and weaken the position of Democrats who were launching an investigation against him. Musk and Trump, in fact, played in different ways, but on the same team. Thus, the former U.S. president demanded to immediately stop imposing electric cars on the population with laws to ban cars with internal combustion engines after 2035. And yet, the main goal of both was to remove Joe Biden from the White House, after which the most scandalous businessman and the most scandalous politician can easily find a compromise on the development of the automotive industry. Trump fears China’s dominance because the Celestial Empire has already become the largest exporter of automobiles, surpassing Japan, Germany and South Korea. China also controls the lion’s share of the lithium market for batteries. And with the current crisis and desperate attempts by liberal elites to impose a “green agenda,” China may well bury many Western car brands within a decade. And that’s just a fraction of the systemic crisis the U.S. is now in. And mass strikes are only a small element of this crisis, which will grow every year, expressing itself in both external and internal problems of America.