The UAW has officially kicked off contract talks with all the Big Three automakers. This year’s negotiations had a very different tone even before our bargaining teams got to the table.
In the past, bargaining began with a staged ceremony where UAW leaders shook hands with company CEOs. This year, our union’s top officers headed to the front gates of Stellantis’ Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP), GM’s Factory ZERO, and Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant during shift changes last Wednesday to shake hands with members and listen to their concerns.
At the three plants, members signed more than a thousand Support Cards saying they’re united for a strong contract. Click here to sign a digital support card.
“It’s beautiful,” SHAP worker Kim Woodward told the Detroit Free Press. “I like what I see, just the people rallying and talking.”
UAW President Shawn Fain and Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock were joined at SHAP by UAW Vice President Rich Boyer, director of the UAW-Stellantis Department, and Region 1 Director LaShawn English.
By meeting with the rank and file first, they put the Big Three on notice that the pressing needs of current and retired members have to be addressed in these negotiations.
“The automakers can afford to make things right,” Fain told workers as he met with them on Wednesday. “They can afford to address our issues; cost-of-living, supporting retirees, job security and ending wage tiers. But they’re not going to just give it to us. We’ve got to be in this thing together. This is about you. This is about our next generation.”
Secretary-Treasurer Mock made clear that the union is financially ready for a fight, if need be. “Our strike fund is very healthy. We are going strong into these talks, and in the event of a potential strike, we’ll be ready. We feel good about being able to take care of our members’ needs.”
Vice President Boyer spoke about Stellantis’ Belvidere Assembly Plant, which the company arbitrarily idled earlier this year. “Our members there had a good attendance, they had good quality, they have a great workforce, and Stellantis still wants to move…. It’s clean, simple corporate greed by the corporation.” Boyer stated that the UAW will fight tooth and nail during negotiations to keep the facility open.
After the morning meetups at SHAP, the UAW’s leadership team headed to GM’s Factory ZERO. Local and national press was at every stop as well. The New York Times asked Kevin Winston, an electrician at Factory ZERO, how he felt about the union taking a more aggressive approach in bargaining. “Now is the time,” Winston told the Times. “I’m ready to strike, 100 percent, and I haven’t heard anyone say we shouldn’t strike.”
“The 2023 national negotiations have the potential of being a defining moment in the labor movement for years to come,” said Vice President Mike Booth, director of the UAW-GM Department. “We are looking forward to these negotiations.”
The day wrapped up at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. UAW Vice President Chuck Browning, director of the UAW-Ford Department, and Region 1 Director Laura Dickerson met with members as they came to work for their 6 p.m. shift. Region 4 Director Brandon Campbell and Region 9 Director Daniel Vicente, who both represent Big Three members in their regions, also made it to the Michigan Assembly Plant to stand in solidarity.
“We recognize the importance and seriousness of the task at hand for our UAW members,” Browning said. “Our members seek only the ability to earn a decent standard of living, attain job security and the opportunity to retire with dignity while working in a safe and fair workplace. That’s what this is about.”
Negotiations with Stellantis began last Thursday, followed by Ford the next day. General Motors negotiations began yesterday. To get the latest news on negotiations, click here go to our special Big Three Bargaining webpages.