United Auto Workers members will vote this week on whether to authorize a strike if the union cannot reach a new deal with Detroit’s automakers.
The union held a massive rally Sunday in Warren as a sign of solidarity, with hundreds of represented auto workers and several Michigan members of Congress attending the event.
The UAW wants increased wages, a 32-hour work week and better pension benefits, among other demands.
Ford, Stellantis and General Motors say the demands are unrealistic.
UAW President Shawn Fain says the union made its demands clear to automakers weeks ago, and it’s now up to them to respond.
“If they want to not make product, if they wanna submarine all these profits that they’ve made over the years, then that’s up to them,” Fain said at the rally. “And if they choose to do so, then we’re gonna do what we have to do. And our membership’s ready to do it.”
Union member Jaron Garza agrees, saying the Big Three are making huge profits now because workers took cuts to keep them afloat.
“Half of the stuff we’re asking for is stuff that we conceded to keep all three of these companies alive during bankruptcy,” Garza says. “So I’m voting to strike if we have to. It’s scary, but they ain’t gonna give it to us. We gotta fight for it.”
The union has set aside enough funding to pay workers about $500 a week while they are on strike.
UAW member Johnny Bellamy says he’s ready to walk the picket lines if necessary.
“I done saved up quite a few dollars to be able to make it through,” Bellamy shares. “So if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything — your dignity and your pride and what you stand for is (sic) more important. So I’m just hoping and praying that they come to an agreement.”
A recent study suggests even a short strike could cost both the U.S. and Michigan economies billions of dollars.
The current contract between the UAW and automakers expires Sept. 15 at midnight.
Editor’s note: Some employees of WDET are members of UAW Local 1979 — a different bargaining group that’s unaffected by these negotiations.