The two North American autos unions, Unifor and UAW, have voted overwhelmingly to give their union leaderships the authority and mandate for strike action (if necessary) at the Detroit Three manufacturers.

Canada’s Unifor, the country’s largest private sector union, says its members at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis have all voted between 98% and 99% in favour of a strike mandate. It represents 18,000 autoworkers.

Last week UAW announced that its members had also voted for authorising a strike at the Detroit Three if an agreement is not reached before 14 September, when the current four-year contract expires.

UAW said 97% of its voting members approved the strike action across the Detroit Three automakers. It represents 150,000 autoworkers.

In a statement on the UAW website, president Shawn Fain said:

“Our members’ expectations are high because Big Three profits are so high. […] Our message to the Big Three is simple: record profits mean record contracts.”

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This is the first time since 1999 that UAW and Unifor’s contract agreements with the Detroit Three expire simultaneously.

Unifor paused negotiations with the automakers to hold the strike votes.

In a statement, Unifor National President Lana Payne said: “Canadian autoworkers have sent a strong message to D3 automakers that they are united behind our bargaining committees in an effort to improve pensions, increase wages, and secure good, union jobs in the EV future.

“Our bargaining teams are set to resume negotiations with the unwavering support of Unifor members across the auto sector. Make no mistake, our union is fully prepared to take any and all necessary action to achieve our collective bargaining objectives.”

In a statement earlier this month, GM said it has been “working hard with the UAW every day to ensure we get this agreement right for all our stakeholders.”

Tensions have run high during negotiations, with several automakers raising concerns or openly criticising the unions’ demands.

Stellantis previously said that UAW’s demands “need a focus on reality for everyone involved.”