Roughly 12,700 members of the United Auto Workers union walked out on General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis in Detroit, Michigan, on Friday beginning a targeted and historic strike after contract negotiations with the three automobile companies failed.
The auto workers are striking over pay, pensions, and working hours, demanding they get better conditions as their four-year contracts expired late Thursday.
They are also pushing back against President Joe Biden’s nationwide push for electric vehicles, a transition that could impact auto worker jobs when it is fully implemented. In contrast with gas-powered vehicles, electric cars require fewer workers to assemble them, and the batteries can be made in non-union factories or by workers with lower wages.
Despite his vocal support for labor unions, the UAW has not endorsed Biden for reelection, although many other unions have.
“The one thing we have made clear is that our endorsements are going to be earned and not freely given,” UAW president Shawn Fain told MSNBC. “That’s one thing we’re doing differently. And there’s a lot of work left to be done here.”
Last year, Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which included multiple billion-dollar financial packages for the electric-vehicle industry. The president has previously said he wants to see unionized auto workers making the climate-friendly cars, but that hasn’t been finalized — which is why the workers are concerned about job security.
Over the summer, Biden continued funding the electric-vehicle shift with billions more in grants and loans. On August 31, the U.S. Department of Energy said it would provide $2 billion in grants and $10 billion in loans alone.