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Union members march in Detroit on Labor Day, as potential UAW strike looms

Marchers across the spectrum of organized labor paraded down Michigan Avenue in Detroit on Labor Day, 2023.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Marchers across the spectrum of organized labor paraded down Michigan Avenue in Detroit on Labor Day, 2023.

Thousands of union members chanted “Union Power” and other slogans as they marched in Detroit Monday to celebrate the Labor Day holiday.

Detroit’s annual celebration of organized labor was actually back from a three-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

National AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler was among those marching up Michigan Avenue.

Shuler said union members don’t want to be taken for granted. She pointed to the numerous strikes taking place across the U.S. as a sign workers want to be listened to and respected.

“There are workers across the board, in every industry, saying ‘We’re fed up,’” said Shuler.

The potential United Auto Workers strike against the Detroit Three was the main topic of conversation among the thousands of union members gathered for the parade.

On Monday, President Joe Biden was asked about the potential for a strike against Stellantis, Ford and General Motors.

“I’m not worried about a strike until it happens,” Biden told reporters. “I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

The president’s remarks “shocked” UAW president Shawn Fain.

Fain says there’s been no progress in contract talks with the Detroit Three.

There’s little more than a week until the UAW’s current contract with the Detroit Three expires.

Fain declined to speculate on the odds the UAW will go on strike next week.

In previous negotiations, the UAW targeted one of the Detroit Three in contract talks. For example, the union only went on strike against General Motors in 2019 when a contract was not reached.

Speaking to reporters at Detroit’s Labor Day parade, Fain reiterated this time around the union is seeking a deal with all three automakers.

“All three companies are target(ed),” Fain told reporters at Monday’s Labor Day parade in Detroit. “We’ve been very clear from before bargaining started, to when bargaining started, that we expect all three to be done by the 14th.  It’s a deadline, not a reference point.  And if they’re not there, then there’s going to be problems.”

Representatives of the Detroit Three have labeled the union's demands for a major wage hike and elimination of the two-tier wage system as “unrealistic.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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