(Update 1: changes headline, lede, adds details)
Washington, Sep 15 (EFE).- Thousands of workers at three US assembly plants of General Motors (GM), Ford Motor and Stellantis began strikes early Friday as negotiations with the companies failed to yield a new contract agreement.
It is the first time in history that the factories of the so-called Big Three of Detroit, as the three companies are known, go on strike simultaneously.
The president of the United Auto Workers union, Shawn Fein, had announced at 10 pm on Thursday that GM’s assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, Ford’s site in Michigan and Stellantis’ facilities in Toledo, Ohio would be the first to strike.
The three plants employ around 13,500 people.
Fein said that workers of the three plants would strike at midnight on Friday if an agreement was not reached with the three companies on a new contract for the next four years.
The last contract expired at 11:59 pm on Thursday.
“For the first time in our history, we will strike all three of the ‘Big Three’ at once,” Fein said in remarks livestreamed on Facebook.
“We are using a new strategy, the ‘stand-up’ strike. We will call on select facilities, locals or units to stand up and go on strike,” he added.
Following Fein’s remarks, hundreds of union members gathered at the front gates of the Wentzville, Toledo and Michigan plants.
Since July, the UAW and the three major US carmakers have been negotiating a new contract agreement for the next four years.
The union is seeking wage hikes of 46 percent over four years, better pensions, a 32-hour workweek and the unionization of workers in battery plants.
Ford and GM have offered 20 percent wage increases spread over the next four years, and the UAW has accused the companies of not taking the negotiations seriously.
The UAW has warned that it will use the strategy of targeted strikes at different plants in the Big Three to put more pressure on the companies. The number of striking plants will increase as negotiations drag on.
Fein has also not ruled out UAW declaring a simultaneous general strike at all three companies, which would be an unprecedented move in the country’s history.
The last strike in the sector occurred four years ago during the negotiation of the existing agreement.
At that time, 49,000 GM workers walked out for 40 days, costing the company $3.6 billion.
A study released in mid-August said that a ten-day strike by GM, Ford and Stellantis workers would result in a loss of $5 billion. EFE