Members travel hours to work after plant closures, UAW pushes for job security

After a plant in Illinois closed in March, some workers took positions in Toledo until the plant opens back up or they move elsewhere.
Published: Oct. 4, 2023 at 7:49 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Along with pay raises, the United Auto Workers union is also pushing for job security with its strike against the Big Three automakers.

Some of the picketers on the line in Toledo are not even from the area. One UAW member who spoke to 13 Action News said he lives in Illinois but had to take a job in Toledo after the plant he worked at closed.

“I live in both places. I live up here and down there,” UAW member Shawn Sparrowgrove said. “When I get a chance to go back down home, I still own a house down there that I go to.”

In March, Stellantis idled its Belvidere, Illinois plant indefinitely. As a result, Sparrowgrove and 1,300 others were laid off.

“They gave us a choice, either we had to move up here or we wouldn’t get no sub-pay,” Sparrowgrove said. “We’d lose everything, until either they open the plant back up or we move somewhere else.”

Sparrowgrove’s situation is not unique to Stellantis, the same thing happened to General Motors workers in 2019 when the company closed its Lordstown Assembly Plant in Warren, Ohio.

“We have hundreds of workers here that worked at the Lordstown facility,” UAW Local 14 president Tony Totty said. “When these corporations make these decisions, they affect our members’ families, and not only that, the community. That’s why it’s so important during these negotiations every four years that we negotiate job security.”

When asked for a statement, General Motors referred 13 Action News to the company’s Sept. 14 contract offer.

Stellantis said the company’s decision to close the Belvidere plant was, “not one that we took lightly” adding “we are grateful that many Belvidere employees decided to bring their skill and expertise to new opportunities within Stellantis.”

Sparrowgrove is hoping a new UAW deal might get him closer to home.

“I’m hoping that they open up, so I can go back home because that is where my family is at,” Sparrowgrove said.

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