Two members of the Biden administration that have been tasked with aiding talks between the Big Three automakers and the striking United Auto Workers union are no longer planning to arrive in Detroit early this week as previously expected.
President Joe Biden is sending acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior aide Gene Sperling to the Motor City amid a historic UAW strike called at each of the Big Three: General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Stellantis. The top aides are expected to continue working with both sides to help the parties reach a “win-win” contract, Biden said.
Sperling and Su were scheduled to arrive in Detroit “early this week,” but have since decided that it would be best to meet virtually this week, according to reports. The aides could arrive in Detroit next week.
The UAW initiated the strike on Friday, Sept. 15, but despite the strike being called for each company, only a few plants were selected to begin striking. About 13,000 of the union’s 146,000 auto workers were striking at three plants as of Monday under what the union is calling a “stand up strike.” Rather than striking everywhere all at once, the UAW is taking a more targeted approach in an effort to maximize their leverage, according to union President Shawn Fain.
Negotiations began between the union and the automakers in July, but the parties failed to reach a new deal by their Sept. 14 contract deadline. The union opted not to extend contracts with any of the companies, hoping to instead encourage simultaneous bargaining among each of the automakers.
The Big Three made initial counter offers that were turned down by the union, which deemed the proposals insulting and insufficient. The automakers have since upped their proposals to get closer to the union’s aggressive list of demands -- including a significant wage increase, ending tiered wages, and pension reinstatement -- but the counters haven’t yet satisfied union leaders.
Both sides have agreed to resume negotiations in the days after the strike was called. The federal government’s Su and Sperling were asked to “help support the negotiations in any way the parties feel is constructive,” NBC News reports.
Biden has shown support for the UAW, suggesting that the Big Three should share their “record corporate profits” with autoworkers, something Fain frequently proclaims. Expressing sympathy for the many working Americans struggling amid high inflation, the Democratic president said the UAW’s efforts could set broad standards nationally, “pushing up wages and strengthening benefits for everyone.”
So far, UAW workers are striking at GM Wentzville Assembly, the Stellantis Toledo Assembly Complex, and the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant (final assembly and paint only). A full strike is still possible, but the union is starting with the smaller strikes.