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Day 4 of the UAW strike affecting the Big 3 automakers

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Today is Day 4 of a historic union strike.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Three plants have shut down after contract talks broke down last week between the United Auto Workers union and the Detroit Three automakers. Now, those manufacturers are Ford, GM and Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep and Chrysler. It's the first ever strike against all three at the same time.

FADEL: Tracy Samilton is Michigan Radio's transportation and energy reporter. And she's at the picket line at Ford's assembly plant in Wayne, Mich. It's one of the three plants where workers have walked out and are now picketing. Good morning, Tracy.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So Tracy, you're out there on the picket line. What are people saying?

SAMILTON: Well, we have a group of folks out there with their picket signs. They're at the end of the shift they signed up for, picketing. And they get excited, of course, when they have somebody drive by - and you will probably hear that as I'm talking to you...

FADEL: Yeah.

SAMILTON: ...Beeping their horn in support of the union. And I think you're going to find the same thing here as, you know, other striking plants, they're resolute. They're fairly defiant at this point.

FADEL: So it's the fourth day of the strike. Break down what the key points of contention here, what these autoworkers want.

SAMILTON: Well, it's a long list. But I think, of course, No. 1 is wages.

FADEL: Yeah.

SAMILTON: The union has asked for 40% increase in wages over the four years of the next contract. And they've come down somewhat to the mid-30s, but they're still pretty far from the top counteroffer from Ford and General Motors, which is 20%. They also want the end of tiers to wages so that you just start right away with the same wage as anyone else who's been at the plant for a longer period of time. And they want the thousands of temp workers that these companies are using to be offered full-time work. Those temp workers are making $20 an hour tops in some of the plants, and it's really hard to make it these days on that.

FADEL: Yeah. Is there any progress on closing the gap between the union and the companies?

SAMILTON: Well, they did bargain, at least with General Motors and Ford, over the weekend. So we got a couple of really terse statements from the union. On Saturday, we heard, quote, "we had reasonably productive conversations with Ford today." And on Sunday, even more terse - we met with GM today. So there's not a whole lot that we can read into that.

FADEL: Yeah, I don't know what it says - we met with GM today. So really, we don't know much about what's going on there.

SAMILTON: (Laughter) Right. Yeah.

FADEL: So there have been layoffs, though, right? How do those relate to the strike?

SAMILTON: Well, Ford immediately said they were laying off 600 workers at this plant here, Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., because the union called off the paint shop workers and the final assembly workers. And Ford said, well, that means we can't do the rest of the work here at the plant. So those folks have been laid off. And General Motors says they are going to need to lay off folks at their Fairfax plant because the Wentzville plant, which is on strike, produces parts for Fairfax. So we're expecting that to happen, too.

FADEL: That's Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's transportation and energy reporter at the picket line at Ford's assembly plant in Wayne, Mich. Thank you, Tracy.

SAMILTON: Yeah. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.