UAW expands strike to Stellantis pickup truck plant in Michigan

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United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain greets workers at the Stellantis Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, to mark the beginning of contract negotiations in Sterling Heights, Michigan, U.S. July 12, 2023.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters

DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union is expanding its strike to a Stellantis plant in Michigan that produces Ram 1500 full-size pickup trucks, dealing another blow to the three major U.S. automakers as negotiations drag on.

The work stoppage includes roughly 6,800 workers at Stellantis’ Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in suburban Detroit, the union announced Monday after initiating the walkout.

“Currently, Stellantis has the worst proposal on the table regarding wage progression, temporary worker pay and conversion to full-time, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), and more,” the UAW said in a release.

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

“We’ve tried to do things the right way. We’ve taken our time, we’ve been patient with these companies. It’s time to amp up the pressure and SHAP just seemed like the the proper target at this time,” UAW President Shawn Fain said outside the plant on Monday, calling the facility Stellantis’ “money-maker.”

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain outside Stellantis’s Sterling Heights truck plant on Oct. 23, 2023.
Michael Wayland

Sterling Heights is one of the most important U.S. plants to Stellantis. However, the automaker is better poised to wait out a work stoppage at the truck plant than its crosstown rivals General Motors and Ford Motor, with a relatively healthy supply of Ram pickups ready to go.

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

The unannounced walkout is the latest example of what Fain called a “new phase” of bargaining with the automakers in which the union would take a more aggressive tack. For several weeks since the targeted strikes began, on Sept. 15, the UAW was pre-announcing strike locations, typically on Fridays.

But on Oct. 11 the union announced its first unexpected walkout at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant — responsible for $25 billion in revenue annually — marking a major escalation in the ongoing negotiations.

Fain on Friday said there was “more to be won” from the automakers.

UAW Vice President Rich Boyer, who’s leading the Stellantis negotiations, told CNBC on Monday there’s been little movement by the company on key issues.

He said the UAW is still discussing a potential move of Ram 1500 production to Mexico as well as the future of Belvidere Assembly in Illinois, which the company indefinitely idled earlier this year.

“It was time. We’ve been sitting at the table long enough with not enough resolution,” Boyer said regarding the walkout at the Sterling Heights facility.

Stellantis did not immediately comment Monday following news of the latest strike.

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