United Auto Workers members rally outside Stellantis’ Ram 1500 plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. after the union called a strike at the plant on Oct. 23, 2023.
Michael Wayland / CNBC
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 Detroit automakers as negotiations drag on.
The new 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 walkout 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.”
Stellantis said Monday it was “outraged that the UAW has chosen to expand its strike action against the company,” citing “a new, improved offer” made by Stellantis on Thursday, which included 23% wage increases, a nearly 50% increase in company contributions to retirement plans and other enhanced benefits.
“Following multiple conversations that appeared to be productive, we left the bargaining table expecting a counter-proposal, but have been waiting for one ever since,” Stellantis said in an emailed statement. “Our very strong offer would address member demands and provide immediate financial gains for our employees. Instead, the UAW has decided to cause further harm to the entire automotive industry as well as our local, state and national economies.”
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain (right) and UAW Secretary-Treasurer Margaret Mock (left) lead a march outside Stellantis’ Ram 1500 plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan after the union called a strike at the plant on Oct. 23, 2023.
Michael Wayland / CNBC
The company said the strike “will have long-lasting consequences,” including loss of domestic market share to non-union competition, company profits and profit-sharing bonuses for UAW members.
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.
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 discussions about the company potentially moving Ram 1500 production to Mexico as well as the future of Belvidere Assembly in Illinois, which Stellantis indefinitely idled earlier this year, remain unresolved.
“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.
Randy Harvard (right), an autoworker of 29 years, stands with other United Auto Workers members after the union called a strike Oct. 23, 2023 at Stellantis’ Ram 1500 plant in Sterling Heights, Mich.
Michael Wayland / CNBC
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.
LaShawn English, UAW regional director overseeing the Sterling Heights facility for Stellantis, believes the new strike should make the company “come to the table” with better economics for workers.
“This is a plant that’s very profitable to the company,” English told CNBC. “I think this one will make them open their eyes a bit.”
Workers such as Randy Harvard marched alongside Fain, Boyer and other union leaders following the walkout, with chants such as “No bucks, no trucks!”
“I’m with the president. We have to stick together,” said Harvard, an autoworker of 29 years. “It’s a workers’ revolt. It’s not just us now. Everybody’s on strike now — from the actors, all the way to the casino workers.”
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