GM workers in West Chester join national UAW strike against ‘Big Three’ automakers

The area distribution center is among the nearly 40 centers across the country where workers were called to strike.

WEST CHESTER TWP. — Dozens of workers at the General Motors Cincinnati Parts Distribution Center in West Chester Twp. in Butler County walked off the job to strike on Friday.

They are among the thousands of workers called to hit the picket lines across the country after the United Auto Workers (UAW) union announced its latest round of strikes in the fight against the Big Three.

In a live video streamed Friday on Facebook, UAW union President Shawn Fain announced workers at all parts distribution centers at General Motors and Stellantis will walk off the job.

The GM distribution center in West Chester is among the nearly 40 centers across the country where workers were called to strike.

Roughly 100 union members are involved. GM’s website says 123 people work at the facility.

This is the second UAW strike at the West Chester Twp. plant in recent years. In 2019, they were among the nearly 50,000 UAW members who went on strike from GM facilities after the company and union failed to reach an agreement on a new four-year contract.

On Friday, Fain announced that the union has made significant progress with Ford and that the company seems “serious.” That means the workers at the Sharonville Ford Plant will still not be striking after they were also left out of the initial plan to strike.

When the Sharonville plant wasn’t in the initial strike list, UAW Local 863 President Tod Turner said he was surprised because the plant makes the transmission for one of the most popular vehicles in the world — the Ford F-250.

Still, the number of plants striking could increase in the coming days if an agreement is not reached.

The strikes will likely chart the future of the union and of America’s homegrown auto industry at a time when U.S. labor is flexing its might and the companies face a historic transition from building internal combustion automobiles to making electric vehicles.

If they last a long time, dealers could run short of vehicles and prices could rise, impacting a U.S. economy already under strain from elevated inflation. The walkout could even be a factor in next year’s presidential election by testing Joe Biden’s proud claim to be the most union-friendly president in American history.

“Workers all over the world are watching this,” said Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of 60 unions with 12.5 million members.

The strike is far different from those during previous UAW negotiations. Instead of going after one company, the union, led by its pugnacious new president, Shawn Fain, is striking at all three. But not all of the 146,000 UAW members at company plants are walking picket lines, at least not yet.

Instead, the UAW targeted a handful of factories to prod company negotiators to raise their offers, which were far lower than union demands of 36% wage increases over four years. GM and Ford offered 20% and Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, offered 17.5%

In addition to general wage increases, the union is seeking restoration of cost-of-living pay raises, an end to varying tiers of wages for factory jobs, a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay, the restoration of traditional defined-benefit pensions for new hires who now receive only 401(k)-style retirement plans, pension increases for retirees and other items.

Starting in 2007, workers gave up cost-of-living raises and defined benefit pensions for new hires. Wage tiers were created as the UAW tried to help the companies avoid financial trouble ahead of and during the Great Recession. Even so, only Ford avoided government-funded bankruptcy protection.

Many say it’s time to get the concessions back because the companies are making huge profits and CEOs are raking in millions. They also want to make sure the union represents workers at joint-venture electric vehicle battery factories that the companies are building so workers have jobs making vehicles of the future.

Automakers say they’re facing unprecedented demands as they develop and build new electric vehicles while at the same time making gas-powered cars, SUVs and trucks to pay the bills. They’re worried labor costs will rise so much that they’ll have to price their cars above those sold by foreign automakers with U.S. factories.

The UAW has $825 million in its strike fund, enough to pay 150,000 UAW members $500 a week for 11 weeks.

In most cases, workers on strike are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Members who find other work during the strike won’t get strike pay if making more than $500 a week. Strike benefits do cover health care, but do not cover vision, hearing, dental, sick or accident benefits.

Copyright 2023 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

About the Author