UAW Reaches Tentative Deal With Stellantis But Escalates Strike Against GM

United Auto Workers members walk the picket line during a strike at the Stellantis Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, in Sterling Heights, Mich., Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

(The Washington Post) − The United Auto Workers said it reached a tentative agreement with Stellantis to end the union’s strike against the automaker, but it escalated its strike against General Motors after days of marathon talks, walking off the job at a factory in Spring Hill, Tenn.

The Stellantis deal, if ratified by a majority of the automaker’s UAW workers, will give employees a 25 percent raise in base wages over the next 41/2 years, the union said Saturday. The deal and a similar agreement with Ford on Wednesday give the UAW its biggest gains in years after a hard-fought campaign by its combative new president, Shawn Fain.

As with the Ford deal, the Stellantis agreement includes cost-of-living adjustments to wages that would push the total wage increase to around 30 percent, the union said, estimating that the starting wage would exceed $30 an hour by the end of contract and the top wage, $42 an hour.

Stellantis also agreed to restart an idled factory in Belvidere, Ill., that this year had put 1,200 workers out of jobs, the union said. The factory will produce a midsize truck, union officials said. Stellantis will also add a battery plant in Belvidere that will employ more than 1,000 people, the union said.

“We’ve done the impossible. We have moved mountains. We have reopened an assembly plant the company closed,” Fain said on Facebook Live.

Stellantis in a statement welcomed the tentative deal but declined to comment on specifics, saying it was up to the UAW to communicate them to workers.

In a surprise move after days of marathon talks with GM that appeared to be moving toward a deal, the union said late Saturday that it was expanding the strike to a Tennessee plant that produces Cadillac SUVs.

“We are disappointed by the UAW’s action in light of the progress we have made.” GM spokesman David Barnas said. “We have continued to bargain in good faith with the UAW, and our goal remains to reach an agreement as quickly as possible.”

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported news of the Tennessee walkout.

The six-week strike against the Big Three automakers has rattled the economy and the Biden administration, which has been pushing to resolve the work stoppage in an industry that contributes 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

President Biden on Saturday evening applauded the Stellantis deal, calling it “a testament to the power of unions and collective bargaining to build strong middle-class jobs while helping our most iconic American companies thrive.”

As it did with the Ford deal, the UAW agreed to suspend its strike against Stellantis and return to work while union members consider and vote on the agreement. If workers reject the proposed contracts, they will return to the picket line.

The UAW strike has been the union’s first against all of Detroit’s Big Three automakers at the same time, as workers railed against years of their wages not keeping up with inflation.

The fallout for the automakers has been swift, with General Motors this week saying the strike was costing it $200 million a week – and that was before the UAW walked out of an additional GM plant in Arlington, Tex., on Tuesday. Ford this week said the strike had cost it $1.3 billion.

The Stellantis deal matches the Ford agreement in several other ways, the UAW said. It would eliminate wage tiers that had left newer workers on a lower pay scale. It would boost company contributions to retirement accounts, and it gives workers the right to strike over plant closures during the life of the contract. In a new twist, the Stellantis deal also would allow workers to strike over product and investment commitments, a concession the UAW called “a historic first for the union.”

The UAW is planning to publish the full details of the Ford agreement on Sunday and to hold an address then to discuss the terms with members. Local union halls will then hold sessions with Ford workers to answer questions, after which a vote will occur. The whole process, which the Stellantis agreement and any GM deal will also follow, could take a week or more.

The contract negotiations have been acrimonious, with Fain frequently lashing out against “corporate greed” and lucrative executive compensation. The automakers have at times accused Fain of grandstanding for the cameras instead of engaging in real negotiations – and they have warned that significantly increasing their labor costs will make it hard for them to compete against non-unionized rivals.

Ford’s chief financial officer, John Lawler, said Thursday that the deal will raise the company’s labor costs by $850 to $900 per vehicle produced. Ford will still remain profitable, he added.

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