UAW on strike in Detroit, but not at the automakers

DETROIT — On the eve of a possible UAW strike against the Detroit 3 automakers, more than 1,000 UAW members employed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan walked off the job Wednesday morning.

The workers, represented by the UAW in Detroit and at several locals across the state, authorized the strike in late August with 95 percent of the bargaining units voting in favor. Negotiations kicked off in July with workers demanding significant wage increases, increased health care benefits and the return of certain jobs that were outsourced.

Pickets were seen in downtown Detroit on Wednesday morning as the Detroit auto show opened its doors. The UAW’s contracts with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis are due to expire at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday.

Those negotiations are ongoing for the roughly 150,000 autoworkers represented by the union at the Detroit 3 automakers.

“Our main thing we’re having some concerns with is outsourcing,” Janice Hilliard, president of UAW Local 2145 in Grand Rapids, told Crain’s. “Currently a lot of our work gets outsourced to vendors, including out of the country, such as El Salvador and the Philippines. This is work in our claims area or customer service area, so we wanted to get some type of (contract) language to pretty much stop that, so to speak.”

Hilliard said the outsourcing has led to a dramatic reduction in UAW employees at BCBSM, which represents about 1,100 today, down from more than 5,000 years ago.

The UAW workers employed at BCBSM across the state, including Detroit and Grand Rapids, also noted opposition to the compensation of BCBSM CEO Dan Loepp, which totaled $15.7 million in 2022.

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