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Contract negotiations with the Big Three auto makers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis expired at 11:59pm September 14. Image Credit: REUTERS

Michigan: The United Auto Workers will strike three plants at each of the legacy Detroit carmakers if a new contract isn’t reached before midnight, setting up a potentially costly and protracted showdown over wages and job security.

The union will initially strike a Ford Motor Michigan plant that makes the Bronco SUV, a General Motors factory in Missouri that makes its Chevy Colorado mid-sized pickup and a Stellantis NV plant in Toledo, Ohio, that makes the Jeep Wrangler, UAW President Shawn Fain said in an online address Thursday night.

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This is the first time in history that the UAW is striking all three of the Big Three auto makers at the same time.

The strategy is designed to methodically cut production of profitable vehicles while minimizing the impact on the UAW’s strike fund. The union said it will add strike locations depending on how bargaining progresses.

“Tonight, for the first time in our history, we will strike all three of the Big Three at once” if no deal is reached, Fain said.

The UAW’s unusually broad attack comes amid a resurgence of labor activism in the US. Emboldened by tight labor markets and agitated by inflation and new risks shouldered during the pandemic, unionized workers have notched a series of victories in the last year at some of the most prominent US companies, including major railroads and United Parcel Service.

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United Auto Workers cheer for their fellow union members as they walk out of their jobs at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, US.

Ford said in a statement late Thursday the union’s latest counterproposal “showed little movement” from its initial demands. It said those would give an extra boost to the cost-competitiveness of non-union rivals such as Tesla and Toyota Motor.

The first walkout will shut down plants that make popular and profitable models, but spares factories that make cash cows like the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and Ram pickups. That leaves the union with bigger, more damaging moves if a strike drags on.

The union said 12,700 workers at three plants will be part of the initial action. They will get $500 a week from the union in strike pay.