WAYNE, Michigan (Reuters) – Hundreds of people, including night shift auto workers and their supporters, gathered at a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, as members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union walked off their jobs to buy a new car historic strike begins.
The first simultaneous strikes against the “Detroit Three” automakers, including General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis, began early Friday after unions and companies failed to agree on new contracts.
“This is what a union looks like,” said Mike Lester, a supporter who works at a supplier to major automakers.
“It’s organized. We are here to ensure that … Ford pays its employees their fair share.”
On Thursday, Chief Executive Jim Farley warned of a dire scenario if Ford gives in to union demands for a 40 percent wage increase, an end to the tiered pay system that pays new hires less than veterans, and a return to defined benefit pensions.
The UAW proposals would “put us out of business,” he said.
But UAW President Shawn Fain said Ford could have funded better wages and benefits for workers if it had limited stock buybacks and dividends to shareholders. Ford said it returned $2.5 billion to investors in 2022.
When the strike began, Fain and Debbie Dingell, a Democratic U.S. representative from Michigan, were among prominent visitors to the Ford plant in Wayne, where some 3,300 UAW members assemble popular Bronco SUVs and Ranger pickups.
“I’m just here to support the workers,” Dingell said.
“They want to see a cost of living adjustment. They work on an assembly line…and different people work at different levels but do the same work. So they want to get rid of the tiers and want job security.” “
Fain does not rule out more drastic measures such as company-wide strikes if an agreement cannot be reached.
A supporter of the striking workers at the plant, a 38-year GM veteran who declined to give his name, said he did not believe the industrial action would stop until the automakers gave in to the union’s demands.
“We deserve what we deserve,” he said.
(Reporting by Eric Cox; Writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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