Stellantis Idling Illinois Plant; UAW ‘Deeply Angered’

Stellantis’ Belvidere, IL, factory is the first U.S. auto plant to go idle since General Motors announced in November 2018 it was closing its big assembly complex in Lordstown, OH, and four other plants in the U.S. and Canada.

Joseph Szczesny

December 13, 2022

3 Min Read
Stellantis Belvidere IL Assembly
Jeep Cherokee assembly at Stellantis’ Belvidere, IL, plant.Stellantis

Stellantis plans to idle its assembly plant in Belvidere, IL, at the end of February, idling 1,350 employees in a move likely to influence the company’s negotiations with the UAW in 2023.

Sales of the Jeep Cherokee assembled at the plant located 75 miles (121 km) northwest of Chicago are down 61% this year, according to Stellantis.

“Our industry has been adversely affected by a multitude of factors like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the global microchip shortage, but the most impactful challenge is the increasing cost related to the electrification of the automotive market,” Stellantis says in a statement announcing the impending shutdown.

“Stellantis has taken a number of actions to stabilize production and improve efficiency at its North American facilities to preserve affordability and customer satisfaction in terms of quality,” the statement says. “While it considers other avenues to optimize operations, Stellantis has made the decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant effective Feb. 28, 2023,” it adds.

 “This difficult but necessary action will result in indefinite layoffs, which are expected to exceed six months and may constitute a job loss under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act,” the statement continues. “As a result, WARN notices have been issued to both hourly and salaried employees. The company will make every effort to place indefinitely laid-off employees in open full-time positions as they become available.”

Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson emphasizes the automaker is not closing the plant. "We are stopping production as of Feb. 28. We are not closing the plant," she tells Wards. "We have to negotiate that with the union."

The Belvidere plant has been operating on one shift since the plant’s second shift was cut last summer in a move that idled 1,650 employees as Cherokee sales declined.

Belvidere is the first U.S. auto plant to shut down since General Motors announced in November 2018 it was closing its big assembly complex in Lordstown, OH, and four other plants in the U.S. and Canada. Conflict over the Lordstown plant contributed to the UAW’s 40-day strike against GM during 2019 contract negotiations.

“We are all deeply angered by Stellantis’s decision to idle the Belvidere Assembly plant without a plan for future product,” says UAW vice president Cindy Estrada (pictured, below left), director of the union’s Stellantis Dept., who leaves the UAW executive board this week.

Cindy Estrada UAW.jpg

Cindy Estrada UAW_0

 “There are many vehicle platforms imported from other countries that could be built in Belvidere with skill and quality by UAW members at Belvidere,” she says. “The transition to electrification also creates opportunities for new product. Companies like Stellantis receive billions in government incentives to transition to clean energy. It is an insult to all taxpayers that they are not investing that money back into our communities.”

Adds UAW President Ray Curry: “We believe Stellantis is grossly misguided in idling this plant which has produced profits for the company since 1965. Not allocating new product to plants like Belvidere is unacceptable. Announcing the closure just a few weeks from the holidays is also a cruel disregard for the contributions of our members from UAW Locals 1268 and 1761. 

“We will fight back against this announcement,” says Curry, who is facing a strong challenge from Shawn Fain, the leader of the reform-minded UAW Members United slate, which is critical of the union’s top officers.

Reformers, who will be filling at least six of the 14 seats on the UAW executive board, say the UAW’s existing leadership has not done enough to protect the plant’s employees.

“Belvidere is not a new problem. Our leadership has known for at least three years that no new product was guaranteed for Belvidere. There was plenty of time to take action but the current leadership has chosen not to. This inaction has to end,” says Fain, who will face Curry next month in a runoff election for the UAW presidency.

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