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United Auto Workers vote to authorize strike: What will happen at GM’s North Texas plant?

The United Auto Workers union said its members voted Friday to authorize strikes in September, which could have drastic implications for the General Motors Assembly plant in Arlington that employs more than 5,600 people.

Contract talks between UAW and the “Big Three” manufacturers have revolved around cost-of-living adjustments and inflation, the role and use of temporary manufacturing workers, the industries shift from pensions to 401(k) retirement plans and a tiered wage system.

The existing contract with GM, Ford and Stellantis will expire Sept. 14 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. About 97% of the union’s members voted Friday to authorize a strike.

General Motors Assembly in Arlington rolled out more than 34,000 new vehicles in March, setting a 70-year record for North Texas car production.

UAW most recently went on strike against General Motors for 42 days in 2019. Economists say the strike led to a $4.2 billion economic loss and sent the state of Michigan where General Motors is based into a one-quarter recession.

Economists also say a 2023 strike of only 10 full days could lead to a total economic loss of $5.6 billion, according to a report from Michigan-based Anderson Economic Group.

But it remains to be seen if the union will actually go on strike. The “strike authorization vote” is a standard procedural step as negotiations escalate that typically receives majority support from union members. It simply means union leadership can call a strike if negotiators can’t reach a deal before the contract expires.

“Our goal is not to strike. I want to make that very clear. Our goal is to bargain good agreements for our members,” said UAW president Shawn Fain during a Facebook Live on Friday morning. “But all we’ve tried to do with this is prepare everybody in the event that we have to take action to get a fair and just contract.”

Voting to authorize a strike is a fairly common tactic in advancing contract negotiations. The Big Three manufacturers previously released statements that express interest in reaching contract agreements without the union going on strike.

It also remains to be seen exactly which company if not all three the union may strike against.

In 2019, UAW went on strike against General Motors, specifically, leading more than 4,500 Arlington assembly workers to walk out of the facility mid-day and causing the plant to shut down.

Dozens of workers held signs and chanted slogans, including “Together, united, we’ll never be defeated!” back in 2019. At the time, Arlington was UAW’s largest local General Motors union.

After striking for more than one month, more than 78% of North Texas production workers voted in favor of a new contract with the company.

If the same thing were to happen this September, plant workers would leave the facility mid-shift, and it’s likely several would protest at the Abram Street property entrance, similar to what happened in years prior.

But this time, union leaders have expressed intentions to strike not just against General Motors, but also against Ford and Stellantis, which produces vehicle brands Ram, Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler.

“The Big Three is our strike target. And whether or not there’s a strike it’s up to Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, because they know what our priorities are. We’ve been clear,” Fain previously said.

The North Texas General Motors facility has significantly contributed to Arlington’s economy since the plant opened in the 1950s. General Motors announced a $500 million investment in June for the plant to maintain existing jobs as it gears up for the next cycle of SUV production.

UAW has more than 600 local unions and 400,000 active members across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, according to the union’s website. It also has more than 1,700 contracts with more than 1,000 employers.