The United Auto Workers (UAW) union expanded strikes against Stellantis this week, targeting a key truck plant in Michigan with 6,800 workers walking off the job.
UAW-represented workers walked off the job at the Sterling Heights, Michigan plant on Monday, with the UAW saying that Stellantis had the “worst proposal” on the table compared to fellow “Big Three” automakers General Motors (GM) and Ford (via Reuters).
Stellantis’s Sterling Heights truck plant produces the RAM 1500 and is the automaker’s largest and most profitable assembly plant, so the move represents a substantial escalation of the ongoing strikes.
The union noted that the automaker’s proposal was behind Ford and GM on general wage increases, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), and changes for temporary workers, including pay and the length of time it takes to transition from temporary to full-time. The latest walkouts bring the total number of UAW-represented workers on strike to over 40,000 as the strikes are in their sixth week.
Reuters wasn’t able to reach Stellantis for comment.
The UAW represents around 150,000 workers total at Ford, GM and Stellantis, and the union has been demanding a 40-percent wage increase for workers over a four-year period, an instant 20-percent wage increase, coverage for workers at future electric vehicle (EV) battery plants, and other benefit-related demands.
“Expanding it to the pickup trucks is really at the heart of what these companies produce,” said Tim Ghriskey, senior investment strategist at Ingalls & Snyder. “Labor is asking for so much. It’s really hard for the automakers to roll over to all of it and if they do roll over, it will punish the stock. It’s a very sticky situation.”
⏰ It's time for a deal that recognizes our members' sacrifices and contributions to the auto industry.
If the Big Three won't hear it from me, they'll hear it loud & clear from the 6,800 members of Local 1700 who just joined our Stand Up Strike at Stellantis's biggest plant. https://t.co/d49ai9BsTK
— Shawn Fain (@ShawnFainUAW) October 23, 2023
The news follows the UAW’s decision to target Ford’s highly profitable truck plant in Kentucky earlier this month, with roughly 8,700 workers vacating the job site. It also comes after Stellantis’s decision to cancel its appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week, loosely citing the costs of the ongoing strike.
Late last month, the UAW avoided escalating strikes against Stellantis, while expanding them against GM and Ford, due to progress in contract negotiations with the former automaker. At the time, about 25,000 workers total were on strike across the three companies.
The strike has also caused the automakers to let go of employees at other auto plants, as worker walkouts send ripple effects through the industry. Most recently, Ford laid off 364 employees at plants in Ohio and Michigan, due to a need to reduce part production at each of the sites. Additional layoffs have faced adjacent auto parts suppliers.
It also comes ahead of Ford and GM reporting Q3 earnings this week, which could be used as further leverage in contract negotiations if financials are strong, but could also risk scaring off shareholders if they aren’t. Stellantis is expected to report its earnings the following week, on October 31.
UAW President Shawn Fain said on Friday that there was “more to be won” in negotiations, highlighting that the companies were all “extremely profitable.”
Fain has previously said that all three automakers had offered a 23-percent wage increase, alongside progress on other issues. He also suggested to workers last week that the talks could be nearing an end.
“That’s the hardest part of a strike,” Fain said. “Right before a deal is when there’s the most aggressive push for that last mile.”