The United Auto Workers strike against Detroit's Big Three automakers is now in week five. Friday, UAW President Shawn Fain announced he's changing his strike strategy. He also called for solidarity from the community.
Fain said the union would be taking a more aggressive and unpredictable approach and not waiting until Friday to announce strike expansions.
"They thought they figured out the so-called rules of the game, so we changed the rules," Fain said during his Facebook Live address.
Sandy Kirklin, a Ford Motor Co. employee for over 25 years, said she watched the speech Friday.
"I think what Shawn Fain is doing is great. He’s keeping them on their toes. They need to come to the table. Like he said, they need to come back to the table with a reevaluation of what their CEOs are making. Maybe they need to bring that down a little bit to be able to pay us if the money’s so tight," Kirklin explained.
In his speech, Fain blasted Ford leadership for saying the automaker has reached its economic limit in negotiations and stretched itself. The automaker made those comments Wednesday.
Fain said, "You know who's reached their limit? The tens of thousands of Ford workers with no retirement security. You know who stretched themselves? The Ford workers who didn't get a single raise for an entire decade."
Automotive expert Paul Eisenstein said he’s surprised Fain waited a month into the strike to change tactics a bit.
"As he acknowledged, the companies had almost come to expect that they could take it easy during the week in negotiations and wait until Friday to start getting serious about any updated or revised offers that they would make," Eisenstein explained.
The first escalation came Wednesday with the UAW announcing a strike at the Kentucky Truck Plant, a huge money maker for Ford, after Fain said Ford failed to budge on their offer.
Eisenstein said, "If what we saw this week is any indication of what Fain said was a change in strategy, I would be nervous at GM and at Stellantis because it could mean any day now if they don’t show the sort of bargaining momentum that the UAW is looking for."
He added, "They could be hit and hit hard, because at this point it’s clear that the UAW is not going after secondary plants."
Eisenstein said the UAW is clearly starting to target the most profitable plants which the automakers can least afford to have shut down.
Kirklin said, "We can’t get everything, but we’re going to get 99.9%. We’re tired of being ran over."
In his speech, Fain also called for solidarity.
He said, "We’re going to need to show up for each other in a big way. So, tomorrow ask if you can do it, show up for each other on the picket line. Bring strikers some music, some food, some solidarity."
On Friday, people representing unions from the UK, Italy, and Brazil joined picketers in Wayne.
Simon Dubbins is the director of international for Unite the Union.
He said, "They made the workforce take a hell of a lot of concessions and, since then, the corporate profits have gone through the roof. CEO pay has gone through the roof. The shareholders have been getting good returns."
"It's just the working people who actually make the products and do the work who’ve had nothing. No pay raises, none of the other problems with their working conditions addressed and that’s gotta change. It's really gotta change," Dubbins said.
Two local retired union workers who are non-UAW members also joined the picket line Friday.
Mike Ketchum, a retired Teamsters member said, "Plants like this are making billions for the one percent. The rest of us just get pennies. That’s the way I look at it."
A retired AFSCME member named Bobby said, "I heard [Fain], but I would have been out here whether he said that or not because when you’re a member for as long as I have [been] you know what solidarity is and what it represents."
This story was originally published by Darren Cunningham at Scripps News Detroit.
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