As UAW strike continues, Stellantis and GM furlough dozens of workers, warns hundreds more possible

Chicago UAW Local 551 workers at Far South Side Ford plant could join picket lines as soon as Friday

Friday, September 22, 2023
Chicago autoworkers could join UAW picket line Friday
As the United Auto Workers strike continues, Chicago Ford workers could soon join their colleagues on the picket lines.

As the United Auto Workers strike continues, Chicago Ford workers could soon join their colleagues on the picket lines. UAW Local 551 on the city's Far South Side has a stockpile of strike signs that have been ready for days.

The Chicago plant is Ford's single oldest manufacturing facility.

"We transition from horse and buggy to combustible engines, and now we're here transitioning to the EV market," said Chris Pena, president of UAW Local 551.

The local employees who assemble Explorers, Aviators and police vehicles are all prepared to walk off the production floor and join nearly 13,000 other UAW workers across the Midwest in their strike.

"I can't wait to see UAW Local 551 walking it out," said member Ayana Dixon.

UAW President Shawn Fain said on Monday he could announce more targeted strikes Friday if negotiations with the Big Three do not progress by noon that day.

The union is asking for a 40% pay increase, the same amount they say auto execs have reaped over the last few year; cost of living adjustments; equal hourly pay for every UAW employee; and the return of pensions for all worker. The auto companies have argued they can't afford the union's demands. Both sides have blamed each other for the work stoppages.

"We're straining our bodies, working 12 hours a day, sometimes not taking breaks. How do they think we're supposed to survive?" said Local 551 member Tasha Lynch.

"We gave up a lot in the recession and we want it back. We deserve it," said union member Andrew Roggenkamp.

All three major Auto companies have offered a 20% pay increase, but union leaders say that's still not enough for what they've given up, like their pension.

UAW said Chicago's plant is Ford's second most profitable so a strike here would be designed to tighten the vice against the auto maker.

Meanwhile, the automakers have begun laying off employees. Stellantis is immediately laying off 68 employees at the Toledo Machining Plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, due to the impact from the United Auto Workers union's targeted strike at the Toledo Assembly Complex, the company said Wednesday.

The layoffs will be temporary and are due to storage constraints, Stellantis said in a statement, adding that it had run out of space to store the parts made at the plant. Production at the rest of the facility will continue. More layoffs are anticipated at Kokomo Transmission and Kokomo Casting in Kokomo, Indiana, impacting an additional 300 employees there, the company said.

This is the first layoff announcement by Stellantis. Ford and General Motors already laid off or warned of idling employees at two of their plants because of the targeted strikes.

Those who are laid off because of the strike will be added to the strike fund payrolls, a source familiar with the situation told CNN, while the union reserves the right to check on their exact status and eligibility of other programs.

About 600 employees at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant's body construction department and south sub-assembly area of integrated stamping were laid off in Wayne, Michigan on Friday. The paint and final assembly department is on strike at that plant.

General Motors idled 2,000 employees at the company's Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas due to the UAW's targeted strike on its Wentzville Assembly Plant in Missouri, the company announced Wednesday. GM warned last week that the idling was coming.

"This is due to a shortage of critical stampings supplied by Wentzville's stamping operations to Fairfax. The team members at Fairfax are not expected to return until the situation has been resolved. Due to the specific circumstances of this situation, impacted employees are not eligible for company-provided SUB-pay," the company said in a statement.

GM said it continues to bargain in good faith and is scheduled to be at the main bargaining table with the UAW today.

"We have said repeatedly that nobody wins in a strike, and that effects go well beyond our employees on the plant floor and negatively impact our customers, suppliers and the communities where we do business, such as in greater Kansas City. What happened to our Fairfax team members is a clear and immediate demonstration of that fact," the company said.

ABC7 Chicago contributed to this report

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