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UAW Strike Overview

William Calabrese
Staff Writer

If you have been paying attention to the news recently, you may have been informed about a growing strike in states such as Michigan and Ohio known as the “Auto Worker’s Strike” or “UAW Strike,” and wonder, “what is all of this about?” With the heavily increasing number of strikes happening all across the United States, from the SAG-AFTRA or Screen Actors Guild strike among movie and television writers in California, to the nurse’s strike at Robert Wood Johnson University hospital in New Jersey, the Auto Worker’s strike at automotive companies across the United States is another protest against the company and their treatment of their workers. This article will show how this strike came to exist, what the union is fighting for, and what has happened since the strike began.

Shawn Fain addressing the masses gathered at the strike (Photo courtesy of CNN)
Shawn Fain addressing the masses gathered at the strike (Photo courtesy of CNN)

To start, we will answer the questions, “What is the Auto Workers Union?” and “How did this strike begin?” To start, the United Auto Workers (UAW), is a labor union created in 1935 in Detroit, Michigan. With more than 400,000 active members, the union has worked to secure economic and workplace justice for the workers in the Automotive, Aerospace, and Agricultural industries. The UAW has seen multiple successful strikes throughout their history, one of them being the 1936 sit-in strikes in Atlanta, Georgia and Flint, Michigan. During this strike, they fought to increase their wages and an increase in the safety of workers after multiple deaths were reported at certain automotive plants. Both of these demands would be met and accomplished in 1937. As for the current strike in 2023, the main catalyst for these workers was an overhaul of an old labor contract. The UAW’s current President, Shawn Fain, created a new labor contract with 5 goals in mind:

  1. An increase in wages over a 4-year span to combat inflation.
  2. An end to the “two-tiered wage system” causing unequal pay among different groups of workers.
  3. Improvements in overtime and retirement benefits.
  4. More protection for workers in case any plants or factories close down.
  5. A 32-hour work week.

After this contract was written, Fain presented it to the automotive companies through immense negotiation, something the UAW is highly proficient in. When the automakers gave the UAW their proposals for the workers, the UAW was dissatisfied, and would call a vote for a strike on August 15th, passing on August 27th with an astounding 97% voting to move forward and strike. The strike would then begin on September 14th, 2023, protesting the three main automotive makers in the United States, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Stellantis.

After the strike officially began, the UAW went straight to work on getting their name known across the United States. Some of the UAW’s main forms of protest in the strike included picketing (congregating outside of the workplace), strike action (a work stoppage), a rolling strike (some workers strike while others work), and walkouts. The strikes would start off slow but would soon grow to large amounts in certain cities and states. As of October 2023, there are about 25,000 members of the UAW striking, with around 7,000 alone at the Ford and GM plants in Chicago, Illinois. Also, as of October, 38 GM and Stellantis plants have been dealing with strikes, in comparison to one Ford, GM, and Stellantis plant in early September. At the moment, the strike seems like it will not stop until their demands are met, especially as the Hollywood writer’s strike ended on September 27th, inexplicitly fueling the UAW strike.

As stated before, there is currently no end in sight to the strike, but there has been support from Washington for the auto workers in this strike. Recently, President Joe Biden showed his support for the auto workers in Michigan by joining the picket line and giving a speech in support for them. During the speech, Joe Biden showed his undying support for the workers and stated, “Folks, you’ve heard me say many times, Wall Street didn’t build this country, the middle class built this country, and unions built the middle class. That’s a fact, so let’s keep going. You deserve what you’ve earned, and you’ve earned a hell of a lot more than you’re getting paid” (CNN). While the President has shown his support for the union workers, the auto manufacturers have been doing the opposite. Ford and GM announced on October 2nd that they have laid off 500 workers in response to the ongoing strike, while Shawn Fain and the auto companies continue to negotiate on a deal.

Readers, as the UAW strike and even other strikes continue to go on, it is important for you to understand your rights as a worker. Whether you are a capitalist, a socialist, or you are in support of unions or against them, it should be your priority to understand what rights you have as a worker in whatever job you work in and fight against unfair treatment in the workplace. We encourage readers to research more about the UAW strike, but also encourage you to understand what rights you have as a worker, even if you are not working at this moment. Standing up against workplace inequality and even striking may not seem important to some, but the UAW strike shows us that groups of people can work to make big changes in our society.

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