The United Auto Workers (UAW) union continues to intensify its strikes against Detroit’s emblematic automakers, broadening its remit to include a factory producing Ram pickup trucks for Stellantis.
On Monday morning, a wave of 6,800 members muted the once pulsating heartbeat of Sterling Heights, Michigan’s Assembly Plant. This facility is reputed as a significant profit hub for the associated company.
Such an amplified protest comes shortly – a mere three days, following the UAW president’s update on the tentative advances made in dialogues with General Motors and Stellantis. However, Shawn Fain pressed the firms to refine their offers. Regrettably, Ford – claiming to have presented the most enticing proposal of the trio – remained stagnant, offering no improvement.
From September 15, the unionized workforce turned its back on each manufacturer, initiating selective strikes at different factories. Fast forward six weeks, and an overwhelming approximated 41,000-strong mob of workers is paralyzing operations across all three automakers. The echoing silence from the idle assembly plants and parts warehouses spells a grim reality, as about 28 per cent of total union employees are on strike.
Previously, the UAW concentrated its collective efforts on one specific automaker, leveraging any attained agreement as a blueprint for potential settlements with the others. This time round, they accuse Stellantis of trailing behind Ford and GM in their offerings, despite outperforming both in terms of revenue and profits.
Stellantis, shaped from the merging of Fiat Chrysler and France’s PSA Groupe in 2021, finds itself in the UAW’s crosshairs for not addressing concerns, such as the speed of workers’ progress up the pay scale.
The automaker has spoken out, expressing its indignation that its Sterling Heights plant made the strike hitlist. Stellantis maintains it has in fact made improvements in its proposal, including a 23 per cent wage hike over four years and considerable augmentations in retirement savings contributions, accompanied by added job security clauses.
The company alleges that the UAW’s resistance is causing an industry-wide ripple effect of detrimental impacts on local, state and national economies. Extending the strike to more plants, Stellantis argues, only lays the groundwork for non-unionized competition to creep in, threatening its competitiveness and ability to invest.
Meanwhile, workers stand their ground in solidarity, driven by the conviction that their demands are justified. Among them, longtime employee of the Sterling Heights plant, DeSean McKinley, echoed the collective sentiment, declaring, “we’re not going to keep playing. So we’re going to shut down your bread and butter.”
Indeed, the intensified assault on Stellantis sends a message to Ford and GM urging them to improve their offers. This development suggests a deal that looked promising last week now appears increasingly elusive. Union’s president, Shawn Fain, unapolagetically confirmed this, suggesting the companies have more to give.
In sharp and firm tones, Fain enlightened the negotiating companies of the workers past losses and how their new offers are yet to satisfy. It seems the UAW has more cards to play, and the companies, ultimately, have more money to spend, indicating a lengthy and complex road to conciliation.