Members of the United Auto Workers demonstrate outside the Stellantis Ram 1500 plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, after the union called for a strike at the plant on October 23, 2023.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

DETROIT – The United Auto Workers union is expanding its strike to a Stellantis plant in Michigan that makes full-size Ram 1500 pickup trucks, dealing another blow to Detroit automakers as negotiations drag on.

The new work stoppage affects about 6,800 workers at Stellantis’ Sterling Heights assembly plant in suburban Detroit, the union announced Monday after initiating the strike.

“Currently, Stellantis has the worst proposal on the table when it comes to wage growth, temporary worker salaries and conversion to full-time, cost of living adjustments (COLA), and more,” the UAW said in a press release.

The Sterling Heights plant strike brings the total number of UAW members striking alongside Detroit automakers to more than 40,000. It is the first escalation of the union strike in nearly two weeks and the first new work stoppage at Stellantis in over a month.

“We tried to do things right. We took our time and were patient with these companies. “It’s time to turn up the pressure, and SHAP just seemed like the right target at this point,” UAW President Shawn Fain said outside the plant on Monday, calling the facility a “moneymaker” for Stellantis.

Stellantis said Monday it was “outraged that the UAW has decided to expand its strike action against the company,” citing “a new, improved offer” that Stellantis made Thursday that included a 23% wage increase , representing a nearly 50% increase in company contributions to retirement plans and other expanded benefits.

“After several conversations that appeared to be productive, we left the negotiating table expecting a counterproposal, but have been waiting for one ever since,” Stellantis said in an emailed statement. “Our very strong offer would meet member demands and deliver immediate financial benefits to our employees. Instead, the UAW has chosen to cause further harm to the entire automotive industry and our local, state and national economies.”

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain (right) and UAW Treasurer Margaret Mock (left) lead a march in front of the Stellantis Ram 1500 plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, after the union on October 23, 2023 had called for a strike at the factory.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

The company said the strike “will have long-term consequences,” including the loss of domestic market share to non-union competitors, company profits and profit-sharing bonuses for UAW members.

Sterling Heights is one of the most important US plants for Stellantis. However, the automaker is better prepared to wait out a work outage at the truck plant than its downtown rivals General Motors and Ford Motor because it has a relatively good supply of Ram pickups ready to go.

Cox Automotive said the company had a 114-day supply of the Ram 1500 pickup as of Oct. 17, compared to GM’s 100-day supply of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Ford’s 99-day supply of the F-150. The industry average is about 62 days, according to Cox.

UAW Vice President Rich Boyer, who is leading the Stellantis negotiations, told CNBC on Monday that the company has made little move on key issues.

He said discussions remain unresolved over the company’s potential relocation of Ram 1500 production to Mexico, as well as the future of Belvidere Assembly in Illinois, which Stellantis shut down indefinitely earlier this year.

“It was time. We’ve sat at the table long enough without the resolve,” Boyer said of the strike at the Sterling Heights plant.

Randy Harvard (right), a 29-year-old auto worker, stands with other members of the United Auto Workers after the union called for a strike at the Stellantis Ram 1500 plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, on October 23, 2023.

Michael Wayland/CNBC

The unannounced strike is the latest example of what Fain called a “new phase” of negotiations with automakers in which the union would take more aggressive action. Since the targeted strikes began on September 15, the UAW announced strike locations several weeks in advance, usually on Fridays.

But on October 11, the union announced its first unexpected strike at the $25 billion Ford truck plant in Kentucky, marking a significant escalation in ongoing negotiations.

Fain said Friday that there is “more to gain” from automakers.

LaShawn English, UAW regional director who oversees the Sterling Heights plant for Stellantis, believes the new strike should result in the company “coming to the table” and offering better economic conditions for workers.

“This is an asset that is very profitable for the company,” English told CNBC. “I think this will open their eyes a little bit.”

Workers like Randy Harvard marched alongside Fain, Boyer and other union leaders after the strike, chanting chants of “No money, no trucks!”

“I’m on the president’s side. We have to stick together,” said Harvard, a 29-year-old autoworker. “It’s a workers’ revolt. It doesn’t just affect us now. Everyone is on strike now – from the actors to the casino workers.”

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Source : www.cnbc.com

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