By David Shepardson and Joseph White
WASHINGTON/DETROIT -The United Auto Workers (UAW) union went on strike at Chrysler-parent Stellantis’s largest assembly plant on Monday, hitting the automaker’s profitable RAM 1500 pickup truck production in a major expansion of the more than month-old strike.
The UAW, which is striking the three big Detroit automakers, blamed the latest walkout by 6,800 workers at the Michigan plant on Stellantis having the “worst proposal” on the table on wage increases, temporary worker pay and conversion to full time status as well as cost-of-living adjustments.
More than 40,000 union members working at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis are now on strike since the walkouts began on Sept. 15, part of an unusual campaign of simultaneous strikes against the Detroit Three automakers.
Stellantis officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The union has demanded a 40% wage hike, including a 20% immediate increase, improvements in benefits, as well as covering EV battery plant workers under union agreements.
The UAW’s move against Sterling Heights is similar to its recent walkout from Ford’s Kentucky Truck assembly plant, its most profitable single operation globally.
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain met workers at the plant as they left, shaking hands and handing out picket signs, according to a union post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
Fain on Friday warned of more walkouts at U.S. truck and SUV factories unless the automakers improved wage and benefit offers, insisting companies could afford more than the record packages on the table.
He said the Detroit Three had converged on a 23% wage hike offer and made progress on other issues but told UAW members “there is more to be won”. GM and Ford say additional cost-of-living increases already take their total compensation offers to a hike of over 30%.
Fain has acknowledged some UAW members want to vote on the offers in hand but last week urged them not to give in to “fear, uncertainty, doubt and division” that he said were sowed by the companies.
Fain also told UAW members the talks were nearing an end.
“That’s the hardest part of a strike,” he said. “Right before a deal is when there’s the most aggressive push for that last mile. “
ACR Alpine Capital Research portfolio manager Tim Piechowski, who owns GM shares, said he was concerned by the strike expansion.
“I don’t know where this really stops with the UAW,” he said. “What if Stellantis says, ‘We have nothing more to give.’ Then he’s stuck. It’s hard for me to be optimistic about any incremental strike regardless of the thought that it might be bringing you closer to the end.”
On Oct. 16, Ford Chairman Bill Ford warned of the growing impact to the automaker and the U.S. economy from the strike.
The total economic losses from the UAW strike have reached $7.7 billion, according to the latest data from economic consultancy Anderson Economic Group, with the Detroit Three suffering losses of $3.45 billion.
Stellantis shares were up 1.5% in Milan trading. Ford was down about 1% in New York while General Motors dropped 0.2%.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Joe White in Detroit and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Deepa Babington)