The walkout at the Sterling Heights Assembly plant marks another significant escalation in the UAW’s concurrent strikes against the “Big Three” automakers, which includes Ford and General Motors. The Sterling Heights facility employs roughly 6,800 Stellantis workers.
The union said in a statement Monday that it had shut down “Stellantis’ largest plant and biggest moneymaker,” and that it did so because the company had the “worst proposal” of the three automakers on the table.
“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 UAW workforce,” the union said.
Stellantis said in a statement Monday that it was “outraged” by the decision to strike the Sterling Heights facility. The company said it recently made a “new, improved offer” to the union, which would include a 23% pay increase over the life of the four-year contract.
“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,” the company said. “The UAW’s continued disturbing strategy of ‘wounding’ all the Detroit 3 will have long-lasting consequences.”
UAW members launched their strike on Sept. 15 after failing to reach new agreements with all three companies. Citing previous concessions it made to help the automakers in the wake of the financial crisis, the union is looking for significant pay increases, better profit-sharing formulas and stronger job security provisions, among other demands.
Rather than strike all plants at once, the union has opted to walk out at only select plants while gradually broadening the work stoppage to more facilities.
There are a total of roughly 150,000 workers employed under all three contracts. The walkout at the Stellantis plant brings the number of auto workers on strike to around 40,000, the union said. But the companies have laid off thousands of additional workers because of the way the strikes have impacted the production chain.
“Roughly 470,000 U.S. workers have already gone on strike this year, a more than threefold increase over last year”
Sterling Heights is the second pickup truck plant that the union has shut down this month, following a strike at Ford’s Kentucky Truck plant in Louisville, where workers produce the company’s Super Duty series. Unlike earlier walkouts at production and parts distribution facilities, both the truck plant strikes came with no warning from the union.
The truck plant strikes are likely the most painful for the companies so far because full-size pickups tend to come with juicy profit margins. The UAW said it received a major concession from General Motors ― an offer to put the company’s U.S. battery plant workers under the union contract ― when it threatened to strike GM’s Texas plant where workers build full-size SUVs. (GM has not confirmed that such an offer was made.)
The decision to target Ford’s large pickup production drew a rebuke last week from Ford Chairman Bill Ford, who said the disruption would “harm tens of thousands of Americans right away,” citing disruptions for dealers and parts suppliers. UAW President Shawn Fain countered that Ford should tell the company’s CEO, Jim Farley, “to stop playing games and get a deal done.”
The strikes at the Big Three are part of a broader wave of work stoppages hitting U.S. employers this year as unionized workers push aggressively for strong contracts amid a tight labor market. Large strikes have hit Hollywood (150,000 actors and 11,000 writers), hospital giant Kaiser Permanente (75,000 health care workers) and the Los Angeles hotel industry (20,000 workers) in recent months.
Roughly 470,000 workers have already gone on strike this year, a more than threefold increase over last year’s figures, according to Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker.