Jeep workers on strike: UAW selects Local 12 to strike first as unions begin fight with Big 3

Local 12 is one of three local units selected to strike first
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 8:29 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2023 at 12:41 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Local Jeep workers are among the first United Auto Workers selected to walk off the job as contracts with the Big 3 automakers expired late Thursday night.

UAW Local 12, whose members work at the Toledo Assembly Complex (Stellantis), is one of three units UAW national leadership chose to be the first to strike as part of its targeted “stand up” strike plan. GM’s Toledo Propulsion Plant was not selected to strike Thursday night.

UAW Local 12 is joined by Local 2250 in Missouri and Local 900 in Wayne, Michigan. It’s still possible all 146,000 UAW members could strike, but only a select number of locals will go first, union officials said. UAW President Shawn Fain said the strategy is in an effort to keep the Big 3 automakers guessing amid contract negotiations.

The unconventional strategy also helps the UAW stretch out its strike fund. If all 146,000 members were to strike simultaneously, the $825 million fund would be depleted in about 11 weeks, as each member gets $500 per week in strike pay while they’re on the picket line. 13,000 auto workers walked off the job as contracts with Stellantis, Ford, and General Motors expired at 11:59 p.m. Thursday. The initial set of unionized auto workers to strike make up nearly 10% of all UAW members. It also marks the first time in history the UAW has begun striking against the Big 3 simultaneously.

The union has a list of demands including pay raises, a 32-hour work week, pension increases for retirees, an end to varied wage tiers for factory jobs, and restoration of cost-of-living pay raises, among other demands.

UAW Local 12 President Bruce Baumhower told 13 Action News on the picket line there wasn’t a single member who disagreed with the move to strike.

They’ve been working for $15.78 for 14 years now, that’s the starting pay, and top pay for that group stops out at $18,” said Baumhower. “Then you’ve got a guy right next to him on the other side of the car making $32 because he’s a traditional worker who was here before all that. So we’ve been working on that for years and this our chance to fix that. The economy is strong, the car industry is crazy, the jeep sales are just remarkable and i think it’s our turn.”

The strike has far-reaching implications beyond local Jeep workers and the productivity and profitability of the automakers.

Baumhauer said that related companies Local 12 has contracts with went dark on Friday due to the strike. Local 12 is what’s called an amalgamated local, he said, that has contracts with 42 local companies and 12 of them are shut down because Jeep is shut down.

“We have companies that make our seats, companies that put our tires on the rim, companies that make our instrument panels. We have companies who do our frame construction,” said Baumhauer. “So all of those plants that I represent in Local 12 are dark today because of this, so those people fortunately will be able to go on unemployment, but it is difficult to have that many of our companies shut down.”

Fain said the companies increased their wage offers, but he still called them inadequate.

The three automakers all contend they are negotiating in good faith. Ford offered 20% over 4½ years, while GM was at 18% for four years and Stellantis was at 17.5%.

Stellantis said Saturday the UAW was misrepresenting its latest counteroffer and clarified that the company increased its offer on Sept. 14 to a 21% cumulative raise for hourly employees during the next contract, with a 10% immediate increase at the time of ratification. The company also moved on wage tiers, inflation protection, and retirement security. Stellantis leadership said it proposed ending the wage tier in the Mopar parts division and cut the hourly wage progression timeline in half to bring current full-time hourly workers to the top rate.

The statement went on to say the bargaining team is working days, nights and weekends to address the union’s demands and has delivered four proposals so far.

“Our team continues to take a serious and responsible approach to find creative solutions for each of these demands. We have listened and will continue to bargain in good faith until an agreement is reached, the statement from Stellantis read. “When we work together, we win together. And we look forward to getting everyone back to work as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile GM’s CEO Mary Barra said she was disappointed and frustrated over the strike.

“The offer is still on the table. It is a very strong offer not only from a gross wage perspective, 20%, that compounds to 21% over the life of the agreement but also maintaining world class health care and job security because of the allocations we’ve made to all of these plants,” Barra said. They have product and components to continue to build. Disappointed where we’re at, but the deal is still on the table and we are still at the table ready to negotiate to get people back to work.”

Ford’s CEO criticized UAW leadership for its negotiating tactics, saying it seems they are spending more time on strike strategy than on the actual negotiations.

“We would rather make history by a deal that’s going to propel our industry forward for the next decades with this transition,” said Farley.