UAW Strikes Mercedes-Benz Supplier ZF in Alabama

The strike by 190 ZF workers at Tuscaloosa, AL, is separate from the UAW’s ongoing disputes with the Detroit Three automakers that have seen 13,000 of 146,000 hourly employees walk off the job.

Joseph Szczesny

September 21, 2023

2 Min Read
UAW strikers ZF Tuscaloosa screenshot
UAW strikers at ZF axle plant in Alabama.

UAW strike action extends beyond the Detroit Three as workers at a critical supplier plant in Alabama walk off the job.

Some 190 workers at the ZF plant in Tuscaloosa, AL, launched a strike Wednesday morning after voting down a contract proposal from the Germany-based supplier, which furnishes front- and rear-axle assemblies to the nearby Mercedes-Benz assembly plant.

The Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV, GL SUV and the GLE Coupe are built in Tuscaloosa. A Mercedes spokeswoman says the company is monitoring the situation.

According to the UAW, the contract dispute revolves around wages, the plant’s tiered-wage structure and health care benefits. “These members of UAW Local 2083 have been fighting for a fair contract,” says the union, which has struggled for years to organize plants owned by foreign automakers and suppliers in the southern U.S.

UAW President Shawn Fain says the best way for the UAW to recruit new members is to “deliver good contracts.”

Tony Sapienza, a spokesman for ZF North America in Northville, MI, tells Wards that the company is trying to keep the Tuscaloosa plant operating with salaried staff and temporary workers. “We’ve been negotiating for seven months, and we’re continuing to negotiate in good faith,” he says.

The strike is separate and distinct from the union’s ongoing labor disputes with Detroit’s three automakers, according to officials from both the UAW and ZF.

UAW strikes at General Motors, Ford and Stellantis assembly plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri are continuing for a sixth day.

GM says it was forced to idle 2,000 employees at its plant in Fairfax, KS, which depends on parts made at the struck plant in Wentzville, MO.

“It is unfortunate that the UAW leadership’s decision to call a strike at Wentzville Assembly has already had a negative ripple effect, with GM’s Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas being idled today and most of its represented team members leaving the plant as there is no work available,” GM says in a statement issued after the plant’s employees were sent home. “This is due to a shortage of critical stampings supplied by Wentzville’s stamping operations to Fairfax. The team members at Fairfax are not expected to return until the situation has been resolved.”

Impacted employees are not eligible for company-provided supplemental unemployment benefits, GM says in a statement. The UAW has said it will provide $500 a week to workers laid off in response to the strikes, the same amount roughly 13,000 strikers are receiving.

Stellantis, while officially presenting its fifth contract offer to the UAW, says it plans to idle a total of 368 employees, including 68 at the Toledo Machining operation in Perrysburg, OH, and the rest from the company’s operations in Kokomo, IN – where union president Fain joined the automaker in 1994 as an electrician.

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