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UAW’s Strategy Aims to Damage Detroit 3’s Reputations
The UAW’s strategy of having targeted strikes against the Detroit 3 aims to damage the companies’ reputations and “keep them wounded for months,” according to private messages written by a top aide to the union’s president.
The messages, obtained Thursday by Automotive News, indicate that the union’s goal is to extract gains from the automakers by pitting them against each other instead of using the pattern bargaining approach of past negotiations. They were viewed by top executives at the companies and have added to concerns among them that the union hasn’t been bargaining in good faith, according to two sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Reactions from the Automakers
Stellantis called the comments by UAW Communications Director Jonah Furman, posted in a group chat on the X social media platform, “incredibly disturbing.” They were first published Thursday evening by The Detroit News.
Furman did not respond to requests for comment from Automotive News. Reached by The Detroit News, he said they were “private messages … you shouldn’t have.”
“It’s disappointing, to say the least, given what is at stake for our employees, the companies and this region,” Ford Motor Co. communications chief Mark Truby said in a statement. “For our part, we will continue to work day and night, bargaining in good faith, to reach an agreement that rewards our workforce and allows Ford to invest in a vibrant and growing future.”
“It’s now clear that the UAW leadership has always intended to cause months-long disruption, regardless of the harm it causes to its members and their communities,” General Motors said in a statement late Thursday.
“The leaked information calls into question who is actually in charge of UAW strategy and shows a callous disregard for the seriousness of what is at stake. UAW leadership needs to put the interests of its members and the country over their own ideological and personal agendas. We’ve put a 5th record offer on the table and are ready, as we always have been, to bargain in good faith to reach a deal that rewards our team members and allows GM to succeed and thrive into the future.”
Stellantis also used strong wording in its statement: “These reported comments made by the UAW Communications Director are incredibly disturbing and strongly indicate that the UAW’s approach to these talks is not in the best interest of the workforce,” its statement said. “We are disappointed that it appears our employees are being used as pawns in an agenda that is not intended to meet their needs.”
The UAW’s Simultaneous Strike
The UAW began its first-ever simultaneous strike against the Detroit 3 on Sept. 15, one minute after its previous four-year contracts with the automakers expired. The union ordered a total of about 13,000 workers at assembly plants — one at each company, spread across Michigan, Ohio and Missouri — onto picket lines. It told members at other locations around the country to keep working but be ready to walk out if called upon.
UAW President Shawn Fain has said he plans to expand the strike Friday at noon EDT time unless the negotiations show “serious progress.” He intends to announce which plants will be added two hours ahead of the deadline.
In one of the private messages, Furman explained why the union didn’t employ companywide walkouts.
“They can basically price in an all-out” strike, he wrote. “But if we can keep them wounded for months they don’t know what to do. And creating compression points of national attention for them to do the right thing is way different than just waiting for a month for the next offer. Plus we’re breaking pattern and they’re bargaining against each other for the first time in 70 years.”
Furman continued by saying the union can adjust the targeted strikes based on what the automakers do at the bargaining table. “If Ford and GM won’t move but Stellantis will, we can spare them,” he wrote. “An all-out [strike] is just attrition. This is recurring reputations damage and operational chaos.”
The UAW on Aug. 31 filed charges against GM and Stellantis with the National Labor Relations Board accusing them of bargaining in bad faith. Fain has said he couldn’t get the companies to negotiate before doing so.