Pressure is mounting on automakers who won't cave to union demands.
The United Auto Workers union's (UAW) strike against the Detroit Big Three reached new heights yesterday as President Biden joined the picket lines in Michigan. Not only is this the first time in history that the UAW has launched a simultaneous strike against Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, but it's also the first time a sitting president has joined workers on the frontline of a strike.
According to AP News, President Biden referenced the 2008 bailouts the automotive industry received as motivation for UAW members getting increases. "The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile industry back in 2008. You made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot. And the companies were in trouble. Now they're doing incredibly well, and guess what? You should be doing incredibly well," President Biden said.
The President also agreed that UAW members should get the 40% increase they're demanding (over four years). When asked about the increase, Biden said, "Yes. I think they should be able to bargain for that."
According to CBS Detroit, former President Trump will skip out on the second Republican primary debate to join the picket lines today. President Trump expected to throw his weight behind the UAW, seeking their endorsement for the upcoming election.
The strike is slowly ramping up, though Ford is being slightly spared as the automaker has agreed to some of the union's demands this past week. Per an earlier AP News report, General Motors and Stellantis are facing more severe repercussions. When the strike started on 14 September, 13,000 workers walked out of three assembly plants.
Now that bargaining with GM and Stellantis has reached a deadlock, the UAW has announced that its members will be walking out of 38 additional GM and Stellantis plants. That brings the total number of strikers to 18,600, representing 13% of the UAW's membership.
Even though Ford has been somewhat spared, it's still engaged in broader negotiations with the UAW, which forced the automaker to stop construction of its $3.5 billion battery plant in Michigan. "We're pausing work, and we're going to limit spending on construction at Marshall until we're confident about our ability to competitively run the plant," Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said to The Detroit News.
Ford announced the BlueOval Battery Park Michigan earlier this year, and the stoppage will likely have a knock-on effect on the planned start of production, which is scheduled for 2026. Ford appears to be playing hardball, as Reid also stated, "We [Ford] haven't made a final decision about the investment there." Construction of the embattled plant is still in its infancy, so Ford could potentially take its business elsewhere, leading to an estimated 3,500 jobs being lost.
BlueOval Battery Park Michigan is tasked with assembling LFP batteries, which will lower the cost of cars. We've already seen the economic benefits of using LFP batteries in cars like the base model Ford Mustang Mach-E.