Ford employees who have been on strike with the United Auto Workers for the past six weeks are getting back to the job after the union reached a tentative agreement with the Detroit-based auto manufacturer Wednesday night.
But the more than 5,000 General Motors Arlington Assembly workers who walked off the job Tuesday morning are still on the picket lines.
Arlington Mayor Jim Ross addressed the UAW strike on Wednesday at an annual “State of the City” luncheon.
“We’ve been down this road before, and here’s what I’ll tell you, we’ve dealt with GM, we’ve dealt with the UAW,” Ross told a crowd of more than 600. “They all want to work this out. We’re confident they’re going to be working it out soon. Let the stuff happen, it’ll work out just fine.”
Ross told the Star-Telegram he is a “big believer” in both GM and the UAW, and he is “confident” the parties will reach a resolution.
“Those two entities both have a strong desire to resolve their differences,” Ross told the Star-Telegram. “We’ve seen the strikes happen before, and they work things out. They have a strike going on now. I’m very confident that the people behind the scenes are working night and day to resolve those things. I think they’re going to get there. Obviously, we love when GM is just pumping those SUVs off the assembly line over there. It’s going to happen.”
The UAW strike began on Sept. 15 against the Big Three automakers — GM, Ford and Stellantis. A Missouri GM assembly plant, a Michigan Ford assembly plant and an Ohio Stellantis assembly plant were the first strike targets after UAW’s contract expired in September. Nearly 13,000 UAW workers walked off the job during that first week.
Workers heading to the picket lines from GM Arlington — one of the automaker’s largest and most profitable plants — meant more 45,000 UAW workers were on strike across the nation on Wednesday.
GM makes many of its best-selling vehicles in Arlington, including Chevrolet Tahoes and Suburbans, GMC Yukons and Cadillac Escalades.
“It’s significant that this is now a strike reaching some of the most profitable plants of GM and Ford and Stellantis,” Jacobs said on Wednesday morning, before Ford and UAW reached a tentative agreement. “It appears to be a little bit of an alteration of the strategy. The strategy began with some very selective strikes that sent a message to the auto companies but were not that painful either for the workers or for the companies. Now, this is a much more direct hit upon company profits.”
If UAW wins something significant, it will have favorable ripple effects on the entire labor movement during the wave of strikes across the country this year, Jacobs said.
“The way bargaining works, there’s a pace to it and then things happen very rapidly at the end,” Jacobs said. “So I sense a little bit of a quickening of the pace that means that the parties are making a decision about where they might end up.”
Jacobs said the most immediate effect of the strike in Arlington will be employees having less money in their pockets to spend in the local community. UAW pays its members about $500 per week they are on strike.
“They’re making an investment of their energy and emotions in the situation,” Jacobs said. “It means that there might be some reduced business, because of workers who are consumers who can’t afford to buy things they normally buy.”
Contract talks between UAW and the Big Three over the past few months have revolved around cost-of-living adjustments and inflation, the role and use of temporary manufacturing workers, the industry’s shift from pensions to 401(k) retirement plans and a tiered wage system. The union demanded a 40% pay increase as of early August.
State Rep. Nicole Collier, State Rep. Chris Turner and State Sen. Roland Gutierrez are among several officials who have voiced their support of the strike on social media. President Joe Biden made history when he joined the UAW picket line in Michigan last month.
“If we stand together, if we have faith, we will win. Not just a good contract. Not just a record contract. But a contract that turns the tide,” UAW President Shawn Fain said on the social media site X Tuesday morning.
The Arlington strike came just a few hours after GM held its third-quarter earnings call and reported about $3 billion in profits — a 7% decrease compared to the same time last year.
During the call, GM said the strike had cost about $200 million per week — a number that has likely only increased after the Arlington facility’s shutdown.
“Another record quarter, another record year. As we’ve said for months: record profits equal record contracts,” Fain said in a release. “It’s time GM workers, and the whole working class, get their fair share.”
GM said it was “disappointed by the escalation of this unnecessary and irresponsible strike” in a statement issued Tuesday morning.
“It is harming our team members who are sacrificing their livelihoods and having negative ripple effects on our dealers, suppliers, and the communities that rely on us,” the company said in a release. “Last week, we provided a comprehensive offer to the UAW that increased the already substantial and historic offers we have made by approximately 25% in total value. It is time for us to finish this process, get our team members back to work and get on with the business of making GM the company that will win and provide great jobs in the U.S. for our people for decades to come.”
This is the first time UAW has targeted all of the Big Three manufacturers in one strike. Previously, UAW would target one company and call for a strike at all of the company’s plants.
This most recently happened to GM when workers went on strike for 42 days in 2019. Economists say the strike led to a $4.2 billion economic loss and sent the state of Michigan — where GM is based — into a one-quarter recession.
Experts estimated this year’s UAW strike had already cost the auto industry about $9.3 billion on Monday before GM Arlington walked out.
The North Texas GM facility has significantly contributed to Arlington’s economy since the plant opened in the 1950s. The company announced a $500 million investment at GM Arlington in June for the plant to maintain existing jobs as it gears up for the next cycle of SUV production.
More than 34,000 vehicles rolled out of GM Arlington in March, setting a record for the number of cars ever produced in one month across the plant’s 70-year history in North Texas.
GM Arlington is the third largest employer in Tarrant County as of 2023. It is also the top industrial taxpayer in the county as of 2022.