By David Shepardson
(Reuters) -The United Auto Workers strike against the Detroit Three automakers entered its third day on Sunday with no immediate resolution on the horizon.
Union negotiators and representatives of General Motors, Ford and Stellantis were set to resume talks starting Sunday, following the start of the most ambitious U.S. industrial labor action in decades. This is the first time the UAW has gone on strike against all three automakers simultaneously.
The coordinated strike comes at a time when Americans’ approval of labor unions is at its highest point in decades even as membership in unions remains largely unchanged.
UAW President Shawn Fain told MSNBC on Sunday that progress in the talks has been slow. The UAW resumed talks with GM on Sunday, and will do so with Stellantis and Ford on Monday.
“I don’t really want to say we’re closer,” he said. “It’s a shame that the companies didn’t take our advice and get down to business from the beginning of bargaining back in mid-July.”
Asked in a subsequent appearance on CBS Face the Nation whether workers would walk out at more plants this week, Fain said the union was “prepared to do whatever we have to do.”
About 12,700 UAW workers remain on strike as part of a coordinated labor action targeting three U.S. assembly plants – one at each of the Detroit Three automakers after the prior four-year labor agreements expired at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Negotiators for the UAW and Ford had “reasonably productive discussions” toward a new contract on Saturday, the union said, while Chrysler-parent Stellantis said it hiked its offer, proposing raises of 20% over a four-and-a-half-year contract term, including an immediate 10% hike. That matched proposals from GM and Ford.
The proposals are about half the 40% wage hike the UAW is demanding through 2027, including an immediate 20% boost.
U.S. President Joe Biden, who has signaled support for the union’s efforts, has had acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and advisor Gene Sperling speaking to the UAW and the automakers during the talks.
An administration official said on Sunday that Biden believes new agreements with the automakers should ensure that auto jobs going forward are good middle class jobs.
Mark Stewart, the North American chief operating officer for Stellantis, told reporters Saturday the UAW rejected a proposal to resume operations at an assembly plant in Belvidere, Illinois, noting its offer had been contingent on reaching agreement before the contract expiration.
In late February, Stellantis indefinitely idled operations at the Belvidere plant, citing rising costs of electric vehicle production.
The UAW criticized the company position on the Illinois plant saying now “they are now taking it back. That’s how they see these workers. A bargaining chip.”
Stellantis said late Saturday it is willing to negotiate about the plant’s future. “The truth is UAW leadership ignored Belvidere in favor of a strike,” the company said.
The strikes have halted production at three plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, along with other popular models. GM has been struggling to launch its new EVs and a prolonged UAW strike could hurt those efforts even if it has a chance of helping in the short term, analysts said.
Evercore ISI analyst Chris McNally said in a Sunday research note he expects plants that build more profitable pickup trucks like Ford’s F-150, GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and Stellantis’ Ram to be the next strike targets if the walkout continues.
On Friday, Ford said it was indefinitely laying off 600 workers at a Michigan plant because of the impact of the strike at the facility, which makes the Bronco, and GM told some 2,000 workers at a Kansas car plant that their factory likely would be shut down Monday or Tuesday due to a lack of parts stemming from the strike at a GM Missouri plant.
Besides higher wages, the UAW is demanding shorter work weeks, restoration of defined benefit pensions and stronger job security as automakers make the EV shift.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; additional reporting by Hannah Lang in Washington, Andrea Shalal in Wilmington, Del., and Ben Klayman in Detroit, Editing by Kim Coghill and Deepa Babington)