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UAW expands strikes to Ford and GM plants, Stellantis spared as progress made, Fain says

But Ford's CEO believes the UAW 'is holding the deal hostage over battery plants'

The United Auto Workers (UAW) announced new "stand up" strike locations on Friday morning, once again extending the UAW’s strike strategy, which now enters its third week.

UAW president Shawn Fain said in a Facebook live video that new stand up strikes would affect Ford (F) and GM (GM), specifically Ford’s Chicago Assembly plant and GM’s Lansing Delta Township plant. Seven thousand UAW members across those Ford and GM plants would stand up and strike at 12 p.m. ET on Friday. Stellantis (STLA) was spared from additional strikes, Fain said, because the two sides had made progress in areas such as COLA (cost of living adjustments) and the ability for the union to call strikes at certain plants.

“To restore the balance of power, we have to restore the strike,” Fain said in his address. “Not a single wheel will turn without us.”

The two plants affected today make popular vehicles for both automakers. Ford’s Chicago assembly plant builds the Lincoln Aviator, Ford Explorer, and Police Interceptor SUV. GM’s Lansing Delta Township plant assembles the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. However, the UAW will continue part stamping operations at that plant, Fain said.

United Auto Workers march on the picket line outside the Willow Run Redistribution Center, UAW Local 174, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Van Buren Township, Mich. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
United Auto Workers march on the picket line outside the Willow Run Redistribution Center, UAW Local 174, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Van Buren Township, Mich. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“We still have not received a comprehensive counteroffer from UAW leadership to our latest proposal made on September 21," GM's VP of Global Operations Gerald Johnson said in a statement. "Calling more strikes is just for the headlines, not real progress. The number of people negatively impacted by these strikes is growing and includes our customers who buy and love the products we build."

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Ford was even more blunt with its reaction to Friday's UAW actions. “If the UAW’s goal is a record contract, they have already achieved this,” said Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a news conference following the UAW's strike annoucement. “It is grossly irresponsible to escalate these strikes and hurt thousands of families.”

Farley further alleged that the UAW's main issue with Ford's offer has more to do with the future of battery plants - specifically the future of its $3.5 billion proposed battery plant in Marshall, Michigan. Ford surprised the industry on Monday when the automaker announced that it is pausing development on its $3.5 billion battery plant in Marshall, Mich., claiming the automaker had concerns about “competitively” operating the plant.

”The UAW is holding the deal hostage over battery plants,” Farley said. Recall the UAW believed Ford paused development on the Marshall plant as a threat to the union and future jobs there. Farley stated the automaker never said it would dissuade workers from unionizing at the plant when it opens, and the main reason why the pause occurred is because of cost and other considerations.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that Ford had sought a looser interpretation of the “foreign entity of concern” requirement for battery components, which puts limits on materials and technology coming from countries like China in order to qualify for tax credits authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), believing that interpretation would allow it to license CATL’s battery technology. But behind the scenes, GM reportedly has been arguing for a stricter interpretation of the rules to deal a blow to its crosstown Detroit rival.

GM execs told White House officials that if consumers can use the tax credit to buy cars that CATL helps Ford make, GM and other automakers would be at a competitive disadvantage, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

Nevertheless, Friday's additional stand up strikes on the Big Three are turning up the heat on the automakers ability to functionally perform without a massive hit to the bottom line.

Last Friday, Fain and the UAW expanded their strikes to 38 GM and Stellantis parts and distribution facilities, sparing Ford because the UAW said it had made some progress with the Dearborn-based automaker. Prior to that the UAW had workers stand up and strike at GM’s Wentzville, Mo., plant, Stellantis’ Toledo (Ohio) Assembly, and Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne County.

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Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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