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UAW expands its auto strike once again, hitting a key plant for Ram pickup trucks

Stellantis shows off its Ram truck lineup at the Chicago Auto Show in Chicago on Feb. 9, 2023. The UAW ordered 6,800 union members to walk off their jobs at the company's lucrative Ram pickup assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Mich.
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Stellantis shows off its Ram truck lineup at the Chicago Auto Show in Chicago on Feb. 9, 2023. The UAW ordered 6,800 union members to walk off their jobs at the company's lucrative Ram pickup assembly plant in Sterling Heights, Mich.

Updated October 23, 2023 at 2:59 PM ET

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain was adamant last week that the Big Three automakers can still offer more despite already putting record contracts on the table.

On Monday morning, he underscored that message, calling on 6,800 autoworkers at Stellantis' Sterling Heights Assembly Plant outside Detroit to walk out.

The plant, Stellantis' largest, makes the bestselling RAM 1500 trucks.

The expansion, announced by UAW in a statement, brings the total number of autoworkers on strike to over 40,000, with thousands more laid off in what the auto companies call a ripple effect of the strike.

The union said it took the step because "Stellantis lags behind both Ford and General Motors in addressing the demands of their UAW workforce."

"Stellantis has the worst proposal on the table regarding wage progression, temporary worker pay and conversion to full-time, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), and more," the UAW said.

Record contracts — but not enough

Fain had already warned in a Facebook Live address on Friday that Stellantis' offer was lagging Ford and GM.

All three automakers have proposed wage raises of 23% over the life of the contract, a significant increase from their initial proposals.

Stellantis has also said it would increase its 401(k) retirement contributions to 9.5%, among other improvements, but has not agreed to a return of traditional pensions.

Stellantis had agreed to cut the number of years it takes permanent employees to reach the top wage from eight to four, but Ford has now reduced the time to three years, Fain said.

By laying out the Big 3's proposals side-by-side, Fain is making clear that he expects all three to get on the same page and will amp up the pressure on companies to get them to comply.

"We're going to hit when we need to hit and where we need to hit," he said on Friday.

Stellantis said it was outraged over the walkout at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

"Our very strong offer would address member demands and provide immediate financial gains for our employees," Stellantis said in a statement on Monday."Instead, the UAW has decided to cause further harm to the entire automotive industry as well as our local, state and national economies,"

The company warned that the UAW, in deciding to strike, was sacrificing domestic market share to its non-union competitors.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.

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