Updated Sep 15, 2023 - News

Indiana UAW workers set to strike

Illustration of a half finished car chassis with a sign stuck in the frame that reads "Strike".

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of Indiana auto workers could soon be on strike, as the United Auto Workers union walked off the job at midnight at three factories in Missouri, Michigan and Ohio.

Halting the news: The strike by about 13,000 auto workers — none in Indiana, yet — is an unprecedented move targeting all of Detroit's Big Three automakers that could disrupt the economy for weeks or more.

Why it matters: The standoff comes amid a global transition toward electric vehicles, with American automakers looking for competitive advantages against non-unionized EV companies like Tesla, Axios Detroit's Joe Guillen reports

Threat level: A broader work stoppage at General Motors, Ford and Stellantis would result in an economic loss of more than $5 billion after 10 days, according to Anderson Economic Group.

State of play: Contracts with about 150,000 workers at the three companies expired at 11:59pm Thursday.

  • The union is making progress in negotiations but the sides remain far apart on key priorities, UAW President Shawn Fain said.
  • Fain asked units not called on to strike to continue working under the expired contract, but said most of the contract will remain in place and workers will not become at-will employees.

Zoom in: More than 13,000 Hoosiers could be affected.

  • Stellantis employs more than 7,000 people in Indiana between five plants in Kokomo and Tipton.
  • GM employs more than 6,000 Hoosiers at five facilities — most of them at their Fort Wayne assembly plant in Roanoke.

What they're saying: "It's bullshit."

  • That was the refrain from Dave Willis, president of UAW Local 1166 during a rally that drew hundreds of fired-up laborers to a Kokomo park Wednesday night.
  • Willis said it's time for the company to share its profit with its workers, raise pay and quit the extended use of temporary workers.

The big picture: Workers who have spent decades in the Kokomo plants said they've watched conditions deteriorate.

  • Landing a job there used to feel like hitting the jackpot because you knew you'd be able to afford a comfortable life and take care of your family, said Brian Cottingham, shop chairman with Local 1166.
  • Now, he said, people are barely scraping by. Others need second jobs.
  • "We're tired of getting squeezed, while they make record profits," he said. "We want our fair share."

The latest: The UAW is using a new tactic called a "stand-up strike," where select local chapters representing workers at all three companies are called on to strike.

  • If the impasse progresses, more locals will be called upon to join the stoppage, allowing the strike to grow over time.
  • "If they don't call your local on the first wave, don't get mad," Region 2B director David Green told the crowd in Kokomo. "Don't get mad, it's coming."
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