U.S. President Joe Biden called on the nation’s big three automakers Friday to more fairly share the record profits they have seen in recent years, on the first day of a strike involving 13,000 members of the United Auto Workers.
The United Auto Workers labor union began the strike as talks broke down late Thursday between union leaders and car manufacturing companies General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep and Chrysler. It is the first time in history American autoworkers have struck all three major companies at the same time.
Workers staged walkouts at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri. Not all of the 146,000 UAW members at the companies’ plants are walking picket lines. The union is targeting just three factories.
The main issue is pay, with the union asking for a raise of about 36%. Ford and GM are both proposing a 20% raise over 4½ years. Stellantis was offering 17.5% over that same period.
In remarks delivered at the White House, Biden said he has been in touch with both sides since negotiations began. He said that no one wants a strike but that he respects the right of the autoworkers to do so under the existing collective bargaining system.
The president said he appreciated that both sides have worked around the clock to avoid a strike and said auto companies have made what he called significant offers. But he insisted record corporate profits should be shared with workers through record contracts.
Biden said he is dispatching acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and White House senior advisor Gene Sperling to Detroit to offer their full support to help the two sides negotiate a contract.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press.