What does the UAW want from Detroit's Big Three in the 2023 negotiations?

With the 2023 Detroit Auto Show starting this coming weekend, there could be a dark shadow cast over it as Thursday night could see a massive strike from the United Auto Workers.

As UAW President Shawn Fain calls for solidarity among members of the UAW, he has remained adamant that Sept. 14 is the deadline for a deal for the nearly 150,000 members to have a deal in place with Ford, Stellantis, and General Motors. Without a deal in place by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14, Fain has called for members to put down their tools and walk off the job.

"We want a deal, we're ready for a deal, but it has to be a deal that honors our members' sacrifice and contributions," Fain said. "The cost of a strike might be high, but the cost of not striking is higher."

The Detroit Auto Show starts this week with media days – and also on Friday is the Charity Preview, where executives and others attend the red-carpet charity event at $400 per ticket. That could look out of touch when paired with striking UAW members - regardless of the reason for the event.

What is the UAW strike date?

The current agreement between the union and Big Three is 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14

That means at midnight on Sept. 15, union members will no longer be under contract and could walk out of the factories.

"If we don't get our justice, I can guarantee you one thing - come this Thursday at midnight, there will be action," Fain said.


'We are on a good path': Stellantis plans to give UAW second proposal after weekend of negotiating

After a weekend of negotiating between Stellantis and the UAW, the automaker plans to present its second economic contract proposal to the union Monday morning. There's only days left to reach an agreement and avoid a strike.

What is the UAW asking for?

The UAW is seeking a new deal for the first time since 2019 and originally was asking for a 46% wage increase, a 32-hour workweek, and more for members. The request was later lowered to 36% raise over four years.

Eliminate tiered wage system

UAW employees earn about $28/hour. Those hired after 2007 are in the second tier – and earn about $16 to $19 per hour. This would follow a precedent set by UPS, which tiers among drivers earlier this year.

Wage increases

The UAW wants double-digit pay raises for its members. The UAW cites the 40% raise for CEOs over the past four years and said members are worth the same and more.

Restore Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)

Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) was ended in 2009 as a result of the recession and bankruptcies by Chrysler (now Stellantis) and General Motors. COLA was first implemented in the 1970s when inflation was growing and the UAW wants it back.

Defined Benefit Pension for all workers

Re-establish retiree medical benefits

Right to strike over plant closures

Working Family Protection Program

End Abuse of Temp workers

The UAW wants temporary workers gain full-worker status after 90 days.

More Paid time off to be with families

Significantly increase retiree pay

What have the big three automakers proposed?

In response to the list of demands from the union, Detroit's Big Three have offered their own proposals: 

So far, GM has offered 10%, Stellantis, offered 14.5%, while Ford proposed a 9% wage increase and a 6% lump sum added after.

Fain referred to the proposals as "shameful and insulting" and "deeply inadequate."

The UAW proposed more paid time off and holidays. Ford counter offered with two weeks of paid parental leave, while GM and Stellantis offered Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

Ford offered some protection from inflation for wages, which the UAW called deficient. GM and Stellantis offered lump sum payouts instead of adjustments.

The Big Three have not offered details on temporary workers, however, Ford has made temporary workers eligible for health care when they start

Here are the Big Three's counterproposals:

On Friday, Stellantis provided the UAW with an offer that the union called "unfair" and rejected. That offer included 14.5% raises and inflation bonuses.

Will there be a deal before the deadline?

Fain has made it very clear that he expects a deal before members continue working. 

"Sept. 14 is a deadline, not a reference point for all three of these companies," said Shawn Fain over Facebook Live last week. The UAW president then gestured to a garbage bin behind him that had the words "Big Three Proposals" written on the side. There was paper stacked high.

Last week, all three automakers made their most recent proposals – and they were all rejected by Fain and the union. 

However, on Monday morning, word from Stellantis is that a second proposal is expected to be given to the UAW after a weekend of negotiating

Tobin Williams, the senior vice president of Stellantis' North America Human Resources, said tentative agreements were reached in some areas, while the union will review the monetary proposal once it is received. 

"I’m pleased to report that the Stellantis and UAW subcommittees have reached tentative agreements in a number of important areas, including health and safety, which is of critical importance as the well-being of our people is at the core of our corporate values," Williams said.

A deal with Stellantis will not necessarily negate a strike. Fain has said last week that the union plans to go on strike against any Detroit automaker that hasn’t reached a new agreement by the time contracts expire next week

While saying a strike by up to 146,000 members against all three major automakers is a real possibility, Fain said the union doesn’t want to strike and would prefer to reach new contracts with them.

How big is the UAW?

The UAW has over 146,000 members across Detroit's Big Three.

General Motors employs around 46,000 UAW members

Ford accounts for 57,000 members.

Stellantis has roughly 43,000 UAW members.

A United Auto Workers (UAW) supporter holds a sign during a Labor Day parade in Detroit, Michigan, US, on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

What could be the implications of a strike?

A strike against all three major automakers — General Motors, Stellantis and Ford — could cause damage not only to the industry as a whole but also to the Midwest economy, and could lead eventually to higher vehicle prices.

Experts have said a strike would be detrimental to supply chains and the economy, especially in Michigan.

"A UAW strike against the domestic auto manufacturers will have far and away a disproportionately negative impact on Michigan and that’s because Michigan has more automotive production than any other state in the union," said Sandy Baruah, the president of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Statewide, it could have a harsh financial impact on all of Michigan.

"An auto strike would certainly have, could have an impact on the state's revenues," said Chris Harkins, the state budget director.

That's because if these workers are working the picket line and not the assembly line they are not paying the state income tax – which means their purchasing will go down.

As a result, the state sales tax would take a hit too, and it's anybody's guess how much money could be lost.

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