UAW and Stellantis Forge Tentative Contract Agreement Amidst Union-Declared Strike at Tennessee GM Facility

Stellantis and UAW Forge Tentative Pact Amidst Escalating Strikes; GM Hit as Tennessee Plant Walks Out

In a dynamic development, Stellantis, the manufacturer behind Jeep, has reached a tentative contract agreement with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, following a pattern set earlier in the week with Ford. While this deal, still awaiting member ratification, brings resolution for some, the UAW has intensified pressure on General Motors (GM) by declaring a strike at the Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant. Notably, GM remains the only major automaker without a union agreement.

The Stellantis-UAW deal echoes the Ford agreement and, importantly, secures jobs at the Belvidere, Illinois, plant that Stellantis had initially planned to close. GM expressed disappointment over the new strike in Spring Hill, emphasizing the progress made in negotiations and its commitment to reaching a swift resolution.

Spring Hill, GM's largest manufacturing facility in North America, produces the electric Cadillac Lyriq, along with the GMC Acadia and Cadillac XT5 and XT6 crossover SUVs. UAW President Shawn Fain confirmed the Stellantis agreement, with 43,000 members set to vote on the deal. The agreement will bring an end to a six-week strike at Stellantis, involving 14,000 UAW workers at two assembly plants and various distribution centers.

The pact offers substantial benefits, including a 25% general wage increase over 4 1/2 years for top assembly plant workers, with 11% effective upon ratification. Cost-of-living pay brings the total raises to a compounded 33%, with top assembly plant workers earning over $42 per hour. Notably, the agreement mirrors the Ford contract, extending through April 30, 2028.

The union emphasized that the deal preserved jobs not only in Belvidere but also at an engine plant in Trenton, Michigan, and a machining factory in Toledo, Ohio. UAW President Fain hailed the achievement as monumental, citing the reopening of a previously closed assembly plant as a testament to the union's efforts.

Stellantis-UAW Accord Unveils Job Gains and Historic Wage Increases

In a groundbreaking agreement between Stellantis and the United Auto Workers (UAW), the automaker has committed to building a new midsize truck at its Belvidere, Illinois, factory—previously earmarked for closure. This move will see the rehiring of approximately 1,200 workers, with an additional 1,000 positions created for a new electric vehicle battery plant. UAW President Shawn Fain highlighted the significant development, stating, “We're bringing back both combustion vehicles and electric vehicle jobs to Belvidere.”

Vice President Rich Boyer, leading the Stellantis negotiations, revealed plans to double the workforce at the Toledo, Ohio, machining plant. The UAW announced a substantial $19 billion investment across the U.S., overturning Stellantis' initial proposal of cutting 5,000 U.S. jobs. Instead, the union's strike successfully shifted the narrative, resulting in the addition of 5,000 jobs by the contract's end.

The Stellantis agreement, touted by the UAW, represents gains four times greater than those secured in the 2019 contract. Over the contract's duration until April 2028, a top-scale assembly plant worker's base wage is set to increase more than all the raises accumulated over the past 22 years. Starting wages for new hires will surge by 67%, exceeding $30 per hour, inclusive of cost-of-living adjustments. Temporary workers are in line for raises of over 165%, while workers at parts centers stand to receive an immediate 76% increase upon contract ratification.

Mirroring the Ford agreement, new workers will reach the top of the assembly pay scale in just three years. The UAW also secured the right to strike over Stellantis plant closures, with the added leverage to strike if the company fails to meet product and investment commitments, according to Fain. Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster suggested that indications point to electric vehicles being produced at the Belvidere site, a facility that Stellantis had indefinitely shuttered in the spring.

Amidst these significant gains, Bruce Baumhower, president of the local union at a Stellantis Jeep factory in Toledo on strike since September, anticipates overwhelming support for the deal due to pay raises exceeding 30%, including a substantial immediate raise of 11%. The agreement is deemed historic, with Baumhower clarifying that Fain's opening bid of 40% raises was a negotiation tactic, emphasizing the strategic nature of such starting points in bargaining.

Stellantis Workers Express Relief and Optimism Amidst Tentative Deal

Jermaine Antwine and fellow Stellantis workers gathered outside the automaker’s Sterling Heights, Michigan, plant expressed excitement on Saturday upon learning of the tentative deal reached. Antwine, a 24-year veteran with the company and a team leader in materials at the Sterling Heights plant, remarked, "Anytime you reach a tentative agreement, it’s a good thing." He highlighted the importance of the final numbers aligning with the UAW's objectives.

Negotiations between the union and Stellantis intensified on Thursday, following the announcement of the Ford deal, ultimately culminating in the agreement on Saturday. The news brought relief to about 18,000 GM workers currently on strike at factories in Texas, Michigan, Missouri, and Tennessee. Targeted strikes began on September 15 after contract expiration with the three automakers, reaching a peak of approximately 46,000 workers on strike, constituting a third of the UAW's 146,000 members in the Detroit three.

The Ford deal, setting the pattern for others, promises pensioners small increases upon retirement and substantial raises for those hired after 2007 with 401(k) plans. Notably, the union now holds the right to strike over company plans to close factories, a significant breakthrough. Temporary workers are also set to receive substantial raises, and Ford has agreed to shorten the time it takes for new hires to reach the top of the pay scale to three years.

Reflecting on the impact of the strike, Anthony Collier of Sterling Heights, Michigan, shared, "Most of us had to dip into savings, get loans. Everybody knows the economy went up on all of us, so it’s a little tight to be out on strike pay." Workers expressed anticipation for a ratification vote and the prospect of returning to work. Anthony Collier described the tentative agreement as "excellent," with expectations that it would at least match the terms set by Ford. The sentiments echo a collective hope for a swift resolution and a return to normalcy for the workers affected.

In conclusion, the tentative agreement between Stellantis and the United Auto Workers (UAW) marks a significant step toward resolving the ongoing strikes, bringing relief to workers and fostering optimism about the potential return to normalcy. The excitement expressed by Jermaine Antwine and other Stellantis workers at the Sterling Heights plant underscores the positive impact of reaching a tentative deal. As negotiations continue to unfold, the agreement sets the tone for the industry, following the pattern established by the recent Ford deal. The broader implications of the agreement, including pension increases, improved terms for new hires, and the union's newfound ability to strike over factory closures, reflect the evolving dynamics of labor relations within the automotive sector. Workers' anticipation for a swift ratification vote and a return to work highlights the collective desire for stability and improved economic conditions after weeks of strikes and financial challenges. The coming days will reveal the final outcome of the ratification process, shaping the future landscape of labor agreements in the automotive industry.