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UAW strikes Stellantis' Ram plant: Other SUV and pickup factories are in the crosshairs

Uaw Strikes Stellantis Ram Plant Other Suv And Pickup Factories Are In The Crosshairs

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The United Auto Workers union this morning staged a surprise walkout of 6,800 workers at Stellantis’ Sterling Heights Assembly, where the Ram 1500 pickup is built. But maybe it wasn’t a surprise after all. UAW President Shawn Fain may have tipped his hand during his video update last Friday — and he may also have specified the next closures to come if the strike, now in its sixth week, continues much longer.

In his approximately 26-minute presentation Friday, Fain reported progress in contract negotiations and attempted to shore up the resolve of union members to continue the strike, addressing many who are ready to vote on the concessions already wrested from the Detroit Three automakers. He focused heavily on Ford, excoriating the company for announcing mid-negotiations that it would issue stock dividends, and answering points made by Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., who made a direct appeal last week to UAW members. Ford has made the most concessions from among the automakers but has said it is at the limit of what it can do and remain competitive.

Then close to the end of the video, after presenting a surprisingly detailed series of slides that spelled out where negotiations stood with each automaker, Fain had this to say:

“So what’s the punchline? This week, GM and Stellantis got the message loud and clear, they hurried to catch up with Ford. But GM in particular is worried. They tell us they need a two-tiered wage progression because they expect to do a lot of hiring. At the same time, they threaten product and won’t give us the right to strike over plant closures. I wonder how members at Arlington and Flint Truck feel about that?


“Stellantis has its issues as well. They’re still at a four-year progression. They’re still at just $20 for temp workers. They’ve rejected all increases to retiree pay. I know plenty of members at Sterling Heights Assembly plant and at Kokomo, Indiana, who aren’t gonna like that.


“And Ford is just waiting around, handing out money to Wall Street. I wonder what members at the Rouge thought of Bill Ford’s comments implying they might close if we don’t settle for what they’ve offered.


“The bottom line is, we’ve got cards left to play, and they’ve got money left to spend.”

The UAW escalated the progression of its “stand-up strike” strategy last week when it walked out at Ford’s Kentucky plant, which builds Super Duty pickups, the Ford Expedition, and the Lincoln Navigator. Combine that with Monday’s Sterling Heights walkout, and it’s clear that the union is already well on its way to striking at the heart of the companies’ profits — full-size pickups and full-size SUVs. 

So what’s next? Going by Fain’s comments:

  • GM’s Arlington, Texas, facility produces GM’s full-size SUVs – the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade.
  • GM’s Flint facility builds Silverado and Sierra heavy-duty pickups.
  • Stellantis’ Kokomo facility comprises an engine plant, a transmission, plant, and a casting facility a variety of parts and casings. A strike here could disrupt the supply chain for assembly plants. 
  • Ford’s Rouge complex is the center of the truck universe, home to the Dearborn Truck Facility where America’s top-selling vehicle, the F-150 is built. The F-150 Lightning is also built at the Rouge. (The F-150 is also assembled at Claycomo in Kansas City, which Fain did not mention.

Did Fain really spell out his blueprint? We have to think his name-checking of specific facilities was intentional — everything he’s done so far has been strategic — a threat meant to eke out some final concessions late in the fourth quarter of these negotiations. Fain told UAW members the talks were approaching an end, and to hang on a little longer. “That’s the hardest part of a strike,” he said. “Right before a deal is when there’s the most aggressive push for that last mile.”



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