UAW strike: Ford's Chicago assembly plant workers join walkout Friday

UAW also expands strike to GM plant in Lansing, Michigan

Saturday, September 30, 2023
Chicago Ford plant UAW strike continues Friday evening
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UAW union members continued to strike outside the Chicago Ford plant into the evening hours Friday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- UAW members at the Ford assembly plant on the Southeast Side joined in the union's strike on Friday.

UAW President Shawn Fain made the announcement in an update Friday morning. Fain said an additional, 7,000 workers would be joining the 18,000 workers already on strike.

In addition to the Chicago Ford plant, Fain said workers at a GM plant in Lansing, Michigan Delta Township plan will also join the strike. Fain said the Lansing regional stamping plant will continue working.

He said there would not be an expansion of the strike against Stellantis, citing progress in contract negotiations.

"We suffered through a pandemic," UAW Local 551 President Chris Peña said. "We suffered through a recession. "We gave up a lot, and we're not asking for much."

The plant at 126th Street and Torrence Avenue employs close to 5,000 workers who make the Ford Explorer, Lincoln Aviator and police SUV interceptors. It's Ford's oldest continually operating plant.

"We want our demands met," said UAW Local 551 Ford Motor employee Latonya Davis. "We want increases."

The automakers' last known wage offers were around 20% over the life of a four-year contract, a little more than half of what the union has demanded. Other contract improvements, such as cost of living increases, restoration of defined benefit pensions for newly hired workers and an end to tiers of wages within the union are also on the table.

"It's terrible when you work at a place and the car that you build you can't even afford to buy," said UAW Local 551 Ford Motor employee Toussain Watson.

Stellantiss issued a statement Friday saying, "Stellantis has been intensely working with the UAW to find solutions to the issues that are of most concern to our employees while ensuring the Company can remain competitive given the market's fierce competition. We have made progress in our discussions, but gaps remain. We are committed to continue working through these issues in an expeditious manner to reach a fair and responsible agreement that gets everyone back to work as soon as possible."

The strike began two weeks ago three plants for Ford, General Motors and Stellantis in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri.

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"We've been patient for years," said UAW Local 551 Ford Motor employee Nicole Williams. "We've been working with low pay."

Last week, the strike expanded to 38 parts and distribution facilities for GM and Stellantis, including facilities in Naperville and Bolingbrook.

About 25,000 of the union's 146,000 workers at the three automakers are on strike, allowing it to preserve a strike fund that was worth $825 million before Sept. 14.

"The money ain't adding up," said UAW Local 551 Ford Motor employee Cedric Thompson. "The bills ain't going no where. They're there, so we just want we deserve."

If all of the union's auto workers went on strike, the fund would be depleted in less than three months, and that's without factoring in health care costs.

While the UAW said talks with Ford were progressing, the company announced there were still significant gaps that remained a barrier to an agreement like the issue of EV battery plants.

"We're confident that with the current offer on the table, we would be able to make the investments we need to," Ford President and CEO Jim Farley said.

Chicago FederaIon of Labor and the Illinois AFL-CIO issued a joint statement Friday saying, "Earlier today, UAW President Shawn Fain announced that workers at the Chicago Assembly Plant will join UAW members on the picket line in cities and states across the country.

"President Fain's announcement marks another turning point in the 'stand-up strike.'

"The Chicago Assembly Plant is a key contributor to both Chicago and the Southeast side's local economy, employing nearly 4,000 workers.

"UAW Local 551's presence in the plant has long supported the Chicago economy with significant job growth and access to good-paying, union jobs with quality benefits that provide pathways to education and professional growth on Chicago's south side.

"Members of the UAW are standing up for their families, co-workers and community. CEOs have cashed in on the sacrifices auto workers made 14-16 years ago. And while this historic strike is audacious in breaking the mold in taking on the Big Three all at once, this strike is fundamentally about fairness and equity across the board.

"UAW's fight is rooted in the same struggle that workers all over this country are engaged in for a better future - and at home in Chicago and Illinois, workers are making it clear that there is no place for corporate greed in their communities."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.