DETROIT – The president of the United Auto Workers union said Thursday that autoworkers on strike against the Detroit Big Three automakers have faced attacks on the picket lines this week in multiple states.
Tensions continue to rise between the UAW and the automakers, who have yet to come to an agreement after their contracts expired on Sept. 14. With the union continuing to expand its strike against the companies, non-unionized automotive suppliers and contractors may also feel the increasing pressure.
It’s those contractors, and the automakers, that UAW President Shawn Fain is blaming for recent “violence against ... members on the picket lines” in Michigan, Massachusetts and California.
On Tuesday, Sept. 26, five UAW members were injured when a vehicle reportedly drove through the crowd of picketers while leaving GM’s Flint Processing Center. The individuals reportedly sustained minor injuries. Fain said two of the members were taken to the hospital.
GM identified the driver of the vehicle as a “third-party housekeeping contractor” employed by Malace, and said the driver and the two other employees in the vehicle have been banned from all GM properties. The company also reportedly conducted “safety talks” at their facilities to reinforce their expectations amid the auto strike.
Those striking are not legally allowed to block the entrances and exits to facilities they’re picketing outside of. GM said its employees have been reminded to contact security if entrances or exits are blocked at its facilities.
Despite GM’s response, Fain said both GM and Stellantis are “enabling” the violence toward striking autoworkers after two other incidents were recently reported on picket lines.
According to Fain, a UAW member and a state senator were hit by cars while on a picket line outside a Stellantis facility in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Fain also said members striking at a Stellantis facility in Ontario, California had “guns pulled on them by non-union contractors crossing the line.”
In a video posted to Twitter/X on Thursday morning, Fain claimed the automakers hired those who initiated the violence to “try to break our strike.”
“These attacks on our members exercising their constitutional rights to strike and picket will not be tolerated,” Fain said.
In a statement provided to Local 4, Stellantis said it was appalled by Fain’s claims, calling them misleading, inflammatory and dangerous.
“Since the UAW expanded its strike to our parts distribution centers last Friday, we’ve witnessed an escalation of dangerous, and even violent, behavior by UAW picketers at several of those facilities, including slashing truck tires, jumping on vehicles, following people home and hurling racial slurs at dedicated Stellantis employees who are merely crossing the picket line to do their jobs,” the automaker’s statement read, in part. “The fact is, Stellantis has not hired any outside replacement workers, who Shawn Fain calls ‘scabs.’”
You can read entire statements from Stellantis and GM down below.
Last week, the UAW expanded its auto strike to include 38 additional GM and Stellantis facilities after talks with the companies failed to make “serious progress” by a union-imposed deadline of Friday, Sept. 22. One week later, on Friday Sept. 29, Fain is expected to announce that the strike will expand further, though it’s unclear which facilities will be targeted.
About 18,000 of the UAW’s 146,000 autoworkers were striking as of Thursday at a total of 41 facilities. Only one of those facilities belonged to Ford Motor Company, which is included in the UAW’s strike, but it wasn’t facing the same pressure as GM and Stellantis.
Since the union’s talks with Ford made significant progress last week, according to Fain, the company was spared from the strike expansion. It wasn’t clear if Ford would be included in the strike expansion expected this week.
UAW-represented autoworkers have been simultaneously striking at each of Detroit’s Big Three since Sept. 15 after both sides failed to reach an agreement by their Sept. 14 contract deadline. Bargaining has continued since and the companies have made counter offers to the union’s aggressive list of demands, but the parties have yet to make a deal.
“The health and safety of all employees is General Motors’ overriding priority. On Tuesday, September 26 a third-party housekeeping contractor, employed by Malace, is suspected of striking five picketing employees with his vehicle while attempting to exit the Flint Processing Center after working a shift performing normal sanitation responsibilities. GM is cooperating with local authorities in their investigation.
"In response to this event, we have informed Malace that the suspected employee along with two other Malace employees who were in the vehicle at the time are no longer allowed on any GM property. Additionally, we have conducted safety talks at all GM facilities with active picketing activity to reinforce the expectation and requirement that any employees who experience picketers blockading entry or exit to our property contact site security to help them safely proceed past the picketing employees. This reinforcement is in addition to picketing safety talks that had already been completed with salaried and contract employees across all GM sites with UAW-represented employees."General Motors
“We are appalled by the UAW’s characterization of the incidents occurring on the picket lines. Since the UAW expanded its strike to our parts distribution centers last Friday, we’ve witnessed an escalation of dangerous, and even violent, behavior by UAW picketers at several of those facilities, including slashing truck tires, jumping on vehicles, following people home and hurling racial slurs at dedicated Stellantis employees who are merely crossing the picket line to do their jobs. The fact is, Stellantis has not hired any outside replacement workers, who Shawn Fain calls “scabs”. Only current employees who are protecting our business and third parties making pick-ups and deliveries as they normally would are entering our facilities.
“The top levels of the UAW are aware of all this, yet Shawn Fain decided to make misleading and inflammatory statements, which will serve only to escalate the situation. We are extremely disappointed in the UAW leadership’s lack of ownership in this area, and we call on Shawn Fain and the entire UAW leadership to do its part to help ensure the safety of all Stellantis employees, including those on the picket line.
“Words matter. The deliberate use of inflammatory and violent rhetoric is dangerous and needs to stop. The companies are not “the enemy” and we are not at “war”. We respect our employees’ right to advocate for their position, including their right to peacefully picket. But the violence must stop. We have put a record offer on the table and are working hard to reach an agreement as quickly as possible, which will enable us to go back to work ... together. Let’s make every effort to de-escalate our words and our actions until then.”Stellantis