The United Autoworkers Union says it is expanding its strike to include 8,700 workers at a Ford truck plant in Kentucky The United Autoworkers Union says it is expanding its strike to include 8,700 workers at a Ford truck plant in Kentucky

A majority of Americans support higher pay for auto workers who are on strike against Detroit’s big three carmakers, although approval of the workers’ other demands is more mixed, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The poll found that 36% of Americans sympathize with the workers in their dispute with the automakers, 9% support the automakers, and the rest back both or neither.

Support for the autoworkers fell short of the 55% support for striking Hollywood writers and actors in an AP-NORC poll conducted last month.

Still, the new poll adds to evidence of U.S. support for labor unions during a year marked by strikes in Hollywood, a walkout that was narrowly averted by Teamsters at United Parcel Service, and now the picket lines outside auto plants.

In the new AP-NORC survey, 51% say labor unions help U.S. workers while only 15% say they hurt working people. About one-third say unions help the U.S. economy, while 22% say they damage the economy.

Gallup poll taken in August found that 67% of Americans approve of unions, down four points from 2022 but up from a low of 48% in 2009.

Rachel Collins, a fifth-grade teacher and union member in Chicago, says she hopes the UAW strike could help reverse a long decline in labor power and raise pay for workers across the economy.

“For far too long, labor has been the backbone of what we do in this country but has never been compensated,” she said. “In the last 50 years, we have seen the decline of the working class and the rise of this sort of billionaire class and corporations taking and taking and not giving anything to the workers.”

Chris Ross, a mechanical engineer from Oviedo, Florida, said he understands the workers’ desire for more money to cope with inflation. However, he thinks they are paid better than similar workers in other industries, and he fears that the union’s demands will drive the carmakers’ costs too high as they face lower-cost rivals including non-union Tesla.

“If they are burdened with high labor costs, I suspect that’s going to hurt them,” Ross said. “I’d like to see the Big Three have an ideal opportunity to compete. That’s better for the consumers.”

The United Auto Workers went on strike on Sept. 15 against Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, which owns the Jeep, Dodge, and Ram brands. The union is seeking large pay raises, a shorter work week, an end to lower-pay tiers for new workers, and limits on the use of temporary workers.

Six in 10 people in the AP-NORC poll say they think better pay for the autoworkers would be a good thing. Eight in 10 Democrats and just under half of Republicans say it would be a good thing if the workers got raises.

General sympathy for the workers also breaks along party lines. More than half of Democrats (55%) say they support the workers over the automakers, while only 22% of Republicans feel that way. A majority of Republicans say they support both equally, or neither.

Americans are less certain about the UAW’s specific demands beyond pay raises. More than one-third (38%) think the union’s call for a four-day workweek would be a good thing, while 21% think it’s a bad idea. The public is also somewhat more likely to say it would be a good thing than a bad thing to place limits on the car companies’ use of temporary workers and to require electric vehicles and parts to be made by union workers, but many are unsure or express no opinion either way.

President Joe Biden has openly supported the UAW and joined a picket line near Detroit on Sept. 26, telling the workers that they deserve significant raises.

The front-runner for the Republican nomination, former President Donald Trump, spoke to a group of current and former union members nearby the following night and said Biden’s support for electric vehicles — he signed a law last year that extended tax credits for buying EVs — would cost jobs. That’s a fear held by some auto workers who maintain that EVs require fewer people to build.

The poll shows only 25% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the auto dispute, while 34% disapprove. Trump’s ratings on the issue are even worse, with 19% approving and 39% disapproving of his response to the strike. Thirty-five percent trust Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to handling issues facing American workers, while 24% trust the GOP more.

Barbara Tubbs, a retired caregiver from Dallas, said Biden’s support for the strikers shows empathy for working-class people struggling to pay their bills.

“He has said he knows what it’s like to be in hardship,” which makes him “willing to help with life situations and challenges we are dealing with today,” she said.

But Jim Grove, a retired teacher and guidance counselor in Sharon, Pennsylvania, wasn’t impressed by Biden’s visit to the picket line.

“He’s a shameless panderer,” Grove said. “If he gets a chance to pander to some special interest group, he does it.”

United Auto Workers on Wednesday shut down Ford's (F.N) biggest plant globally, halting production of lucrative pickup trucks with little warning, in a sharp escalation of the union's four-week targeted strike against the Detroit Three automakers.

The UAW said that 8,700 union members at Ford's Kentucky truck plant went on strike after the union said the No. 2 U.S. automaker refused to move further in contract bargaining.

Automakers have more than doubled initial wage hike offers, agreed to raise wages along with inflation, and improved pay for temporary workers, but the union wants higher wages still, the abolishment of a two-tier wage system, and the expansion of unions to battery plants at all three companies.

UAW President Shawn Fain's decision to shut down assembly lines that build Ford Super Duty pickup trucks Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition large SUVs is a blow to Ford that could quickly undermine the automaker's full-year profits.

Ford's Kentucky truck plant, its most profitable operation, generates $25 billion in annual revenue, about a sixth of the company's global automotive revenue. The company's shares fell about 2% in after-hours trading, after closing 0.4% higher on Wednesday.

Fain and other UAW officials called a meeting with Ford at 5:30 pm ET (21:30 GMT) on Wednesday and demanded a new offer, which Ford did not have, a Ford official said.

"You just lost Kentucky Truck," Fain said, according to the Ford official and a union source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are not public.

"This is all you have for us? Our members' lives and my handshake are worth more than this," Fain added, according to the union source.

Ford said the decision was "grossly irresponsible but unsurprising given the union leadership's stated strategy of keeping the Detroit 3 wounded for months through 'reputational damage' and 'industrial chaos.'"

The Kentucky walkout is also a warning to General Motors (GM.N) and Chrysler parent Stellantis (STLAM.MI), whose wage and benefits offers fall short of Ford's, based on summaries the automakers and the UAW have released.

Fain said on Friday he was ready to strike the GM assembly plant in Arlington, Texas that builds Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Suburban, and other large, high-priced SUVs.

High-profit targets at Stellantis include the automaker's Ram pickup truck factories in Sterling Heights and Warren, Michigan, as well as two Jeep SUV factories in Detroit.


Fain said on Friday that Ford had upped its proposed wage hike to 23% through early 2028. Combined with proposed cost-of-living adjustments, workers could receive pay increases of close to 30%, people familiar with the proposal said.

The UAW had expected a further improved proposal from Ford, and on Wednesday it brought the same offer, the union source said.

The Ford official said the company and UAW bargainers had been working to resolve differences on retirement security and union representation at the company's future battery plants earlier in the day.

For the past four weeks, Fain has made decisions about new walkouts on Fridays at the Detroit Three's plants in video addresses. But Fain has said time and again his aim is to keep the automakers off balance.

"We had to choose to do things differently this way," Fain said on Wednesday after the announcement. "If the companies aren't going to come to the table and take care of the membership's needs, then we will react."

Even with Wednesday's walkout, only about 22% of the 150,000 UAW workers at the Detroit Three automakers are on strike. However, thousands more have been furloughed from jobs at operations that are not on strike because automakers said the walkouts made their work unnecessary.

The walkout in Kentucky will put stress on Ford UAW members beyond the sprawling factory near Louisville.

Workers at a dozen other Ford plants that supply engines, transmissions, and other components to the plant could be furloughed. Suppliers to the plant's trucks and SUVs could also be forced to temporarily lay off workers.

The Kentucky plant "is a very profitable plant and because there was no notice at all, it will be particularly disruptive," said Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

"This is a major step hitting the bottom line," Shaiken said. "This sends a signal that the union could escalate this strike at any moment of the day or night. This is uncharted territory for both sides. The union has never used this strategy and Ford has never experienced this strategy."

The UAW on Friday had held off on additional strikes against Detroit Three auto plants, citing GM's unexpected willingness to allow workers at joint venture battery plants to be covered by union contracts. GM and the UAW have been discussing the precise terms this week.

The UAW and Stellantis have another major round of bargaining set for Thursday, sources said.

The Detroit automakers will report third-quarter financial results between Oct. 24 and 31, and the UAW could use what are expected to be robust profits to press their case for a richer contract.

Before Wednesday's Ford announcement, the union had ordered walkouts at five assembly plants, including two Ford assembly plants, at the three companies and 38 parts depots operated by GM and Stellantis.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Joe White in Detroit, Abhirup Roy in San Francisco and Shivani Tanna in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Henderson, Sayantani Ghosh and Jamie Freed

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