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If deadline isn't met, UAW vows to escalate strikes against Big 3 automakers

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

At noon Eastern, thousands more autoworker will walk off the job, joining 13,000 workers who are already on strike. United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain made the announcement on Facebook this morning.

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SHAWN FAIN: All of the parts distribution facilities at General Motors and Stellantis are being called to stand up and strike. We will be striking 38 locations across 20 states, across all nine regions of the UAW.

FADEL: For more on what this latest move means, we're joined by NPR's Andrea Hsu. Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: Hi.

FADEL: So the strike is expanding. We heard Shawn Fain speaking there. Tell us more about how he delivered the news.

HSU: Well, he came out on Facebook wearing, you know, not his signature red union shirt, but instead gray camo. And the UAW members watching this on Facebook cheered the move. You know, people commented he's got his war shirt on. And as you heard, they're adding 38 locations to the strike. Now, it's important to note these are warehouses that supply parts and accessories to dealerships. So if you're in an accident and your front bumper is torn off, well, you take your car to the dealer, and if they don't have that part in stock, they get it from the warehouse at parts distribution center. And so that's who's going on strike.

FADEL: Wow, potential to be very disruptive. How many people is it that are walking out?

HSU: The union - yeah, the union says it's about 5,600 workers. So these are not huge facilities like the assembly plants that are - you know, went on strike a week ago. These facilities might have, you know, 100-some employees, and they are all over the country. The list of cities included Denver, Los Angeles, Dallas, Reno and many more. And one thing to note is that UAW is not including Ford in the expansion of this strike.

FADEL: Interesting.

HSU: And that's because, according to Shawn Fain, the UAW has made a lot of headway in the talks with Ford.

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FAIN: We do want to recognize that Ford is showing that they're serious about reaching a deal.

HSU: And Fain cited a bunch of things that Ford has apparently agreed to, including restoring the old cost-of-living adjustment, which would mean a regular adjustment of wages tied to the Consumer Price Index. It also included a conversion of all temps to full-time positions right away and a pretty favorable profit-sharing plan. You know, these are big wins for the union. But Fain said their talks with Ford aren't done. And when it comes to GM and Stellantis, those companies haven't come around to many of those demands.

FADEL: So you mentioned some of what these distribution centers do. How impactful will this expansion be?

HSU: Well, they are at the end of the supply chain. So these are not the plants that are producing parts - these are not plants that are producing parts for new cars. These are warehouses that supply after-sales parts to dealerships, but they are an extremely profitable part of the business. Some call them the auto company's cash cows. So shutting them down will cause the automakers to lose money right away. And dealerships are going to feel the heat, you know, and consumers. Think about how hard it's been to get parts during the pandemic.

FADEL: Yeah.

HSU: Well, things could get bad like that again.

FADEL: So this move - could it lead to a quick resolution?

HSU: Not necessarily. You know, it sounded like, you know, from this update that GM and Stellantis are still pretty dug in.

FADEL: Yeah.

HSU: And so is the UAW. And no doubt getting these concessions from Ford is fueling the union's ambitions. Fain had a message for workers who are at plants that are not yet on strike. You know, he said, I see you.

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FAIN: Spring Hill, I know you're ready to go. And Kokomo, stand ready. Stick with us and be prepared.

HSU: And Shawn Fain again made clear this morning this fight is not just about autoworkers. It's about the working class.

FADEL: NPR's Andrea Hsu. Thank you, Andrea.

HSU: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.