STERLING HEIGHTS, Michigan — The United Auto Workers said Monday it has expanded its strike of the Detroit automakers to Stellantis NV’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, adding 6,800 members to picket lines and dealing another blow to the automakers’ profitable truck plants.
Workers at SHAP make Ram 1500 trucks. The week before last, the UAW significantly expanded its unprecedented simultaneous strike of all three U.S. automakers when it took down Ford Motor Co.’s largest and most profitable plant, Kentucky Truck, which builds Super Duty trucks. UAW President Shawn Fain warned in a public bargaining update Friday that the union was prepared to hit the auto companies’ pickup truck production as he insisted the UAW has “cards left to play” in the strike, which is now in its 39th day.
Fain had emphasized an end of an era of partnering with the automakers. Instead, his comments were around class warfare, fighting for the working class and securing a strong enough deal to organize plants owned by foreign and EV automakers that the union to date has failed to bring into the fold. Escalating the strike to Stellantis’ largest and most profitable plant in the United States underscores those objectives, experts said.
“That is a sea change. He’s making the case that being too close to the company is not in the union’s interest,” said Harley Shaiken, a University of California-Berkeley professor who specializes in labor, started his career as a GM apprentice and decades ago briefly worked as a UAW consultant. The SHAP strike is “a sharp wake-up call to Stellantis. This is going to be economically painful.”
The strike began on Sept. 15 with walkouts at three assembly plants in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. It has since expanded to include seven assembly plants and 38 parts distribution centers across the country.
The surprise walkout at SHAP brings the number of striking UAW members at the Detroit Three to more than 40,000.
In announcing the move, the UAW pointed in a news release to Stellantis having some of the best financial metrics of the three automakers, including the highest revenue and profits. The union said the automaker “lags behind both Ford and General Motors in addressing the demands of their workforce,” noting what it deems as inadequate proposals on wage progression, temporary worker pay, and cost-of-living adjustments, among other items that Fain had detailed during Friday’s livestream. There wasn’t a major event over the weekend that resulted in the Monday strike expansion, spokesman Jonah Furman said.
“We’re just sending a message,” Fain said Monday on the picket line at the Macomb County plant.
“We’re done. We’ve tried to do things the right way. We’ve taken our time. We’ve been patient with these companies. It’s time to amp up the pressure and SHAP just seemed like the proper target at this time.”
Striking SHAP is a blow to Stellantis’ financial success. AutoForecast Solutions LLC estimates the plant had been expected to produce more than 300,000 trucks this year. That is fewer than the 400,000 vehicles projected for Ford’s Kentucky Truck plant, but Stellantis has fewer plants in the United States.
— Jordyn Grzelewski, Breana Noble and Kalea Hall / The Detroit News