War of Words Escalates as UAW Strikes Stellantis, GM Plants

Until now, Stellantis had avoided publicly criticizing the UAW. General Motors and Ford executives have pleaded their companies’ cases in public remarks and news releases. All three automakers have been rebuked by the UAW.

Joseph Szczesny

October 23, 2023

4 Min Read
Ram 1500 24
Stellantis's Sterling Heights, MI, plant builds profitable Ram 1500 pickup.

Stellantis responds angrily to the UAW’s decision to authorize a walkout at the company’s Sterling Heights, MI, assembly plant, where the company’s profitable Ram 1500 pickup truck is built.

“We are outraged that the UAW has chosen to expand its strike action against Stellantis,” the company says in a statement issued about four hours after the walkout began Monday morning.

The company says it presented the union with a new, improved contract last week in which it offered 23% wage increases over the four-year life of the contract, nearly a 50% increase in its contributions to the retirement savings plan, and additional job security protections.

“The offer would address member demands and provide immediate financial gains for our employees,” Stellantis says.

“Following multiple conversations that appeared to be productive, we left the bargaining table expecting a counterproposal, but have been waiting for one ever since,” adds the company statement, which also attacks the conduct of the negotiations by UAW President Shawn Fain (pictured below, center).

Fain Local 551 Chicago 10-7-23 (Getty).jpg

Fain Local 551 Chicago 10-7-23 (Getty)_0

“The UAW’s continued disturbing strategy of ‘wounding’ all the Detroit Three will have long-lasting consequences,” Stellantis says. “With every decision to strike, the UAW sacrifices domestic market share to non-union competition. These actions not only decrease our market share but also impact our profitability and therefore, our ability to compete, invest and preserve the record profit-sharing payments our employees have enjoyed over the past two years.”

Until now, Stellantis had avoided publicly criticizing the UAW. General Motors and Ford executives have pleaded their companies’ cases in public remarks and news releases. All three automakers have been rebuked by the UAW.

Sterling Heights Assembly builds one of the company’s most profitable vehicles. Stellantis builds a heavy-duty Ram in Mexico.

The strikes are designed to place maximum pressure on Stellantis as well as GM, Ford and suppliers, who are feeling the pinch each time a plant goes down.

Hours after GM reported net third-quarter income of $3.06 billion on $44.1 billion in revenue, Fain on Tuesday ordered a strike at the automaker’s Arlington, TX, plant (pictured, below) that assembles the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade. The SUVs built at Arlington, which employs 5,000 UAW members, make it GM’s most profitable plant, the UAW says.



“Another record quarter, another record year. As we’ve said for months: record profits equal record contracts,” Fain says in a statement. “It’s time GM workers, and the whole working class, get their fair share.”

In a letter to shareholders, Barra says the UAW has “demanded a record contract – and that’s exactly what we’ve offered for weeks now: a historic contract with record wage increases, record job security and world-class healthcare.

“It’s an offer that rewards our team members but does not put our company and their jobs at risk. Accepting unsustainably high costs would put our future and GM team member jobs at risk, and jeopardizing our future is something I will not do.”

Fain, said last week during a live Facebook appearance that Stellantis’s proposal trails behind those put on the table by GM and Ford. 

“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. Currently, Stellantis has the worst proposal on the table regarding wage progression, temporary worker pay and conversion to full-time (employment), cost-of-living adjustments and more,” according to the union.

The walkouts at Sterling Heights and Arlington bring the total number of UAW members on strike at the Detroit Three automakers to over 45,000. As the strike nears the six-week mark, Fain also is threatening to shut down GM’s high-profit Flint, MI, plant which builds heavy-duty pickup trucks.

When the strike began Sept. 15, it targeted a GM plant in Wentzville, MO, which builds GM’s popular midsize truck; the home of the Jeep Wrangler in Toledo, OH, operated by Stellantis; and the Ford plant in Wayne, MI, that builds the Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco.

Two weeks later, the UAW ordered strikes at the Ford SUV plant in Chicago and at the GM SUV plant near Lansing, MI. On Oct. 11, the UAW began a new phase of the so-called “stand-up strike” when it launched a surprise walkout at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant, the largest truck plant in the U.S.

UAW walkouts also began Sept. 22 at 38 GM and Stellantis parts depots spread across the U.S. Those strikes have put pressure on GM and Stellantis dealers who are finding it harder to find parts for customer vehicles.

As the public relations war heats up, the UAW is pushing back on reports carried by Autoline and Fox News that Fain collects a salary of $454,000. The UAW constitution says Fain’s salary is $206,000. As UAW president, Fain is entitled to an expense account, but he does not collect a second salary as head of the Stellantis-UAW training centers as the Fox News report suggested.

He left the job as head of the training center in March when he became union president and does not collect dual salaries as Fox reported, a union spokesman says.

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