KOKOMO, Ind. – Auto workers walked out of dozens of manufacturing plants in 20 states on Friday, joining a strike against two of the big three automakers – General Motors and Stellantis. Workers in Kokomo are standing by, for now – waiting to hear if they’ll also be striking soon.
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said members across the country are saying enough is enough. He announced the expansion of the union’s strike against General Motors and Stellantis on Friday. Workers in Kokomo haven’t been asked to join yet, but it’s not off the table.
“I know more of you are ready to walk. I’ve seen incredible strike-ready demonstrations across the country,” Fain said during a live stream Friday. “Local 551 and Local 862, we see you. Spring Hill, I know you’re ready to go. And Kokomo, stand ready. Stick with us and be prepared.”
Among other demands, the union is asking for a 36% wage increase over four years. Fain said both companies are offering a deficient cost of living adjustment and have rejected their job security proposals.
“With the CEOs and executives taking in record raises over the past few years and companies posting record profits, I don’t think it’s fair that the worker – the person that actually generates the product that generates the revenue – shouldn’t be a part of that,” William Frisbie said.
Frisbie doesn’t work for Stellantis or GM – but said he stands with union members in Kokomo, should they be called upon to strike.
“How long do you wait? How long do people have to struggle? How much worse does it have to get before something is done about it?” Frisbie said.
Not everybody agrees. Bobbie Perry works for a different, non-union automaker in central Indiana.
“I think they’re asking for way too much,” Perry said.
A Stellantis spokesperson said in a statement the company made a competitive offer including all full-time employees earning salaries between $80-96,000, but they haven’t received a response from UAW.
Following yesterday’s publication of comments made by the UAW’s Communications Director and the subsequent strike announcement, we question whether the union’s leadership has ever had an interest in reaching an agreement in a timely manner. They seem more concerned about pursuing their own political agendas than negotiating in the best interests of our employees and the sustainability of our U.S. operations given the market’s fierce competition. The fact is, we made a very competitive offer yesterday that includes all our current full-time hourly employees earning between $80,000 and $96,000 a year by the end of the contract (a 21.4% compounded increase); a long-term solution for Belvidere; and, significant product allocation that allows for workforce stability through the end of the contract. And yet, we still have not received a response to that offer. We look forward to the UAW leadership’s productive engagement so that we can bargain in good faith to reach an agreement that will protect the competitiveness of our Company and our ability to continue providing good jobs.Jodi Tinson, Stellantis Corporate Communications
A GM spokesperson said they’ve brought five “historic” agreements to the table.
Today’s strike escalation by the UAW’s top leadership is unnecessary. The decision to strike an additional 18 of our facilities, affecting more than 3,000 team members plus their families and communities, adds validity to the blueprint identified in last night’s leaked texts — that the UAW leadership is manipulating the bargaining process for their own personal agendas.
We have contingency plans for various scenarios and are prepared to do what is best for our business, our customers, and our dealers.
We have now presented five separate economic proposals that are historic, addressing areas that our team members have said matters most: wage increases and job security while allowing GM to succeed and thrive into the future. We will continue to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.Tara Stewart Kuhnen, GM Corporate News Director
All parties say they’ll continue to bargain, as the idea of returning to work hangs in the balance for thousands of people.
“Of course it’s going to hurt the community,” Perry said. “It’s going to hurt a lot of families. It can hurt some businesses.”
“It may hurt now, but in the long run, it’ll probably help everyone,” Frisbie said.
Experts have said striking could bring serious consequences for the auto supply chain. It’s also hard to predict how long this stalemate could last.