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Mood upbeat along picket lines as U.S. auto strike enters its second day

9 months ago 45



UAW strike enters second day as talks resume

United Auto Workers' strike enters second day as contract talks resume 02:25

Tim Jackson was partly through a car repair Thursday night when he learned that Ford's Wayne, Michigan factory had been tapped as one of three plants nationally to strike.

"Everybody started yelling," Jackson recalled as he stood outside the Ford assembly plant on Friday evening while passing cars honked in approval of the United Auto Workers strike.

Spirits were high on the picket line throughout Friday, the opening salvo in the 88-year-old union's first ever simultaneous strike of Detroit's "Big Three" auto manufacturers.

The UAW had for weeks telegraphed a potential stoppage at General Motors, Ford and Jeep-maker Stellantis, with chatter in recent days of a limited strike rather than a comprehensive walkout of the 150,000 union members across the United States.

US-AUTOMOBILE-UNIONS-STRIKE UAW union members picket outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, on September 15, 2023.  MATTHEW HATCHER/AFP via Getty Images

UAW President Shawn Fain described his goal as keeping the companies off balance to maximize bargaining leverage with a targeted strike that could be expanded over time. In a Facebook Live address late Thursday UAW President Shawn Fain said that employees at three factories for Ford, General Motors and Stellantis would immediately walk off the job. The factories include a GM assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan; and a Stellantis assembly complex in Toledo, Ohio. 

"Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will strike all three of the Big Three at once," he said.

Union leaders and representatives from the Big Three resumed contract talks Saturday. According to Reuters, UAW told its members it had "reasonably productive discussions" with Ford, but did not mention GM or Stellantis.

The union's action has received support from the likes of President Biden, former President Barack Obama and Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who drove his Bronco to the Ford factory in Wayne to join the picket line.

"I always stand for the union way of life," Fetterman told CBS News.

"It felt good and scary all at the same time," said Jackson of the strike, who sees the demand of a higher hourly wage as key to being able to spend more time with his family instead of working 70 to 80-hour weeks.

While Jackson was hearing the news about Wayne, around 300 miles away anticipation was high in Louisville, Kentucky that Ford's truck plant would be picked.

But Tameka Colon shrugged as she recounted the moment she learned Louisville was not chosen, noting that the Local 862 had been organizing strike logistics for weeks in case it got the call.

"I'm going to trust the process," she said. "But I was a little disappointed that we did not get chosen because I feel like we are an ideal plant to strike and really make an impact."

uaw-on-strike-4.jpg UAW members strike against the "Big Three" automakers Jesse Gonzales/CBS Detroit

Instead of walking out on strike, Colon worked a 12-hour shift through the night before joining about 40 other Local 862 members as they bussed five hours to Michigan for a UAW rally in downtown Detroit headlined by Fain and progressive Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont.

"We came off the bus chanting," said Colon as she held printouts of union chants, some highlighted in yellow.

"We've got the mojo and it spreads like wildfire," Colon said. "People need to see that and the companies need to see that."

Polls suggest broad public support for the union, especially in comparison with CEOs from the three companies, who each make eight-figure salaries.

But Sofus Nielson, who has worked at Ford for 29 years, does not expect the companies to bow quickly.

"They're gonna try to make people feel it and hurt," he said, describing Friday's cheer as a reflection of the novelty of the strike.

But Nielson expects a "different attitude" in three weeks if workers are still on the picket line, receiving just $500 weekly in strike pay instead of normal wages.

The strike comes as an auto industry transition to electric vehicles gathers momentum. All three of the companies are investing billions of dollars to build new factories and reboot existing sites for the electric era.

Uncertainty about what the change means for auto workers has been a focal point for Fain echoed by some officials at union locals.

But rank-and-file workers told AFP on Friday that their priority in the strike was winning better wages and benefits, especially for younger colleagues, who can be paid just $15 or $17 an hour in a "temporary" status that can drag on for years.

Auto Workers Strike United Auto Workers members attend a rally in Detroit, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. The UAW is conducting a strike against Ford, Stellantis and General Motors. Paul Sancya / AP

Workers also expressed disgust at a "tier" system in which junior employees are paid less for the same work and don't get a pension.

Ramona Jocys, who has worked at Ford for 33 years, was not assigned to strike duty Friday, but came to the picket line in solidarity with fellow UAW members, including her son-in-law, whom she said makes only half her salary.

"I'm standing right next to my son-in-law who is a part of the tier wage, because he deserves to make good money to feed his family," she said.

"And I'm going to retire soon, but he's gonna carry on. And it's important that we do what we have to do now to ensure the survival of our families."

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