UAW President Shawn Fain on Wednesday called the hundreds of workers on strike against suppliers Clarios and Constellium an "inspiration" to the union as a whole and vowed to keep supporting them.
"All these workers are leading the way for all of us right now," Fain said in a 30-minute Facebook Live appearance. "Their fights are a strong reminder that the way workers build power and make gains in bargaining is by having the collective capacity to shut employers down when our employers refuse to not treat our members fairly. I want striking UAW members to know our million-strong union stands in solidarity with you in the fight for justice."
Roughly 400 workers at a Clarios vehicle battery plant near Toledo this week voted down a tentative contract agreement by a wide margin, extending a strike that began May 8. The plant supplies batteries for General Motors and Ford Motor Co.
"It's a shame," Fain said. "These workers aren't asking for the moon. They're asking for a decent wage, and the company's trying to impose a crappy work schedule on them. These workers are holding their ground, and we're behind them 100 percent."
Additionally, about 160 UAW workers at a Constellium Automotive plant in suburban Detroit have been on strike since May 17. Union officials say the workers are concerned about health and safety issues at the plant, which supplies aluminum structures and crash management systems for a number of Ford products, in addition to management's disciplinary practices.
Fain said the two strikes show how the UAW can flex its bargaining power.
"Going out on strike is not something that any of us take lightly," he said. "But when employers leave us no choice, our union is not afraid to act."
Since taking office in March, Fain has taken a much more aggressive tone toward the Detroit 3 automakers as he prepares for contract negotiations this year, calling multibillion-dollar corporations the union's "one true enemy."
Fain on Wednesday said the UAW would not be afraid to strike the Detroit 3 if needed.
"Whether we strike or not, it's up to the corporations," he said. "If they give our members their fair share, we're going to be fine. If they don't, we're going to do what we have to do."