Shawn Fain, the president of the UAW, the powerful American union of automobile industry workers, threatened on Sunday September 17 to amplify the strike started two days earlier among the three main American automobile manufacturers.
Currently, 12,700 workers are on strike at General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Since its creation in 1935, the UAW, which brings together 146,000 members, has led numerous social conflicts.
► 1935: the emergence of a new union
The UAW was created in 1935 in Detroit, the historic capital of the American automobile industry. The new union achieved its first successes in 1936 with a strike which pushed General Motors to recognize its existence.
But the entry of the United States into World War II in 1942 prompted UAW leaders to vote for a truce so as not to hinder the American war effort.
► 1946: the great wave of strikes
At the end of the global conflict, UAW participated in the great wave of social conflicts which shook the entire American economy. The union launched 320,000 workers into battle and General Motors was hit by a strike lasting one hundred and thirteen days.
Four years later, in 1950, UAW President Walter Reutheur negotiated a five-year “treaty” with General Motors that gave workers a number of benefits in exchange for stopping strikes.
► 1998: 27 factories shut down
General Motors found itself paralyzed by a strike that lasted almost two months, starting at two factories in Flint (Michigan), another historic bastion of the automobile industry. As a result, 27 of the manufacturer’s 29 assembly sites in North America are shut down. The strike aims in particular to block relocation projects.
For observers of social movements in the United States, this conflict is a landmark in American union history. By putting 200,000 workers on technical unemployment, the conflict would have cost General Motors 2.2 billion dollars (2 billion euros at current prices) and will have weighed on the American economy as a whole.
► 2019: a 40-day strike
After a forty-day strike followed by 48,000 employees from September 16 to October 25, 2019, the UAW extracted salary increases from General Motors.
In exchange for the agreement ratified by the majority of strikers, the manufacturer for its part obtained the green light for the already announced closure of three factories. But the conflict once again cost him around 2 billion euros.