More plants shuttered as UAW pulls another 12,000 workers off the assembly line
Banging the drum for justice outside the Sterling Heights plant. | via UAW

DETROIT—The United Auto Workers put more pressure on Detroit’s automakers by, on consecutive days, calling out 6,800 Stellantis workers from that firm’s biggest and most profitable assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., and 5,000 members of Local 276 at GM’s Arlington, Texas, assembly plant. By decision of the union’s bargainers, those workers walked just after 9 a.m. Central Time on Oct. 24.

The two strike calls were the latest expansion of the union’s Stand Up strike’s new strategy of unpredictable closures.

The two walkouts increased to more than 45,000 the number of striking UAW members who toil at Ford, GM, and Stellantis, formerly Jeep/Chrysler. The stand up strikes, unpredictable plant by plant to keep the firms off balance, began at midnight Sept. 14-15. The three companies employ some 150,000 UAW members in total.

That figure does not count workers at parts plants the automakers shut since the strike began because materials from those plants would ordinarily be shipped to now-closed assembly plants.

“Our ability to hold out, to hit the companies economically, to withhold our labor. This is our leverage. This is our path to victory,” UAW President Shawn Fain tweeted after Arlington’s workers walked.

Sterling Heights is Stellantis’s largest plant and biggest moneymaker. Its workers build RAM 1500 trucks. It’s the seventh assembly plant whose workers have walked after UAW bargainers decided to call them out, along with workers at 38 parts plants. The GM Arlington plant is the eighth.

Other big assembly plants whose workers have walked include the Ford SUV plant on Chicago’s South Side and its highly profitable Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

“Despite having the highest revenue, the highest profits—North American and global—the highest profit margins, and the most cash in reserve, Stellantis lags behind both Ford and General Motors in addressing the demands “of their workers, the union said.

“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.”

In an indication that all the auto firms have lots of money in their tills, GM reported on the morning of Oct. 24 that its third-quarter revenue, from June-August, rose 25.13%, to $44.75 billion and its net income increased 51.7% to $2.57 billion.

Stellantis, which is based in the Netherlands, has yet to report figures, but UAW has noted that more than eight of every ten dollars of its revenue comes from U.S. sales. Stellantis also owns Fiat and Peugeot.

“Ford, GM, and Stellantis made a quarter-trillion dollars in North American profits over the last decade. They made a combined $21 billion in total profits in just the first six months of this year. And yet all of them are still refusing to settle contracts that give workers a fair share of the record profits they’ve earned,” the union said.

In a related development, some 1,100 UAW members at General Dynamics plants in Sterling Heights, Mich., Scranton, Pa., and Lima, Ohio, reached a new tentative agreement on Oct. 22 with the top military contractor, a day after their old contract expired. Some of the issues were the same as those which have pushed UAW out onto picket lines at Detroit’s Big 3 auto firms’ plants.

The UAW announced no date for the vote. It also released few details about the tentative agreement, other than to report it would be for four years with a 14% general wage increase and “a folded-in COLA that equals 11% of the top wage, with automatic COLA fold-in in the future.” It also shortens the number of years a worker needs to hit the top of the scale and has no changes in health care benefits.  General Dynamics sought rollbacks there, UAW said.

The General Dynamics workers manufacture Abrams tanks and light armored vehicles. The firm, which also makes submarines in Connecticut—among other weapons—faces both parts and labor shortages, its executives say.


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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.