UAW Strike Expands as Union Claims Plant Producing Ram Trucks Is Shut Down

UAW Strike Expands as Union Claims Plant Producing Ram Trucks Is Shut Down

The automotive industry labor union announced on Monday that it has expanded its strike once again, with 6,800 workers halting work at a plant that produces Ram 1500 trucks.

This means the expanding strike is now targeting one of Stellantis' most important and profitable vehicles. The union took a similar step during its last strike when it shut down a Ford plant in Kentucky that produces several F-Series Super Duty pickups.

This move comes days after UAW President Sean Fein repeatedly criticized Stellantis, the company behind Ram, Dodge, and Chrysler vehicles. In a Facebook live video on Friday, he claimed that Stellantis was "trying to lowball and undermine us" with contract offers significantly weaker than those from Ford and General Motors.

Fein also stated that the company proposed cutting employee health insurance and 401(k) contributions and wants the ability to demand new concessions from workers before the next contract expires.

In a statement on Friday, Stellantis said that negotiations with the union were productive without going into specifics. However, following Monday's strike, the company expressed being "disappointed" with the union's recent move.

"Stellantis presented UAW with a new, improved offer Thursday morning, including a 23% wage increase during the contract term, nearly a 50% increase in our pension plan contributions, and additional employment guarantees for our employees," the statement said, adding that the union has not made counteroffers since the last negotiations.

The strike at the Sterling Heights assembly plant on Monday is the latest move in a labor dispute that stands out from most others in Detroit's history. These are the first contract negotiations since Fein, who took office in March, was elected UAW president due to dissatisfaction with former president Ray Curry.

Fein is the first UAW president directly elected by the membership. He ran on an anti-corruption platform and has employed sharper anti-corporate rhetoric than his predecessors.

Approximately 40,000 UAW workers at Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis are currently on strike, seeking an annual wage increase of over 40% compared to the four-year contract, a shorter workweek, increased pensions for retirees, improved healthcare, cost-of-living adjustments, and the elimination of pay tiers.

Automakers have offered record contracts with wage increases of about 20%, along with bonuses and other enhanced benefits.

Union's Strategy

The strike began on September 15 when UAW members simultaneously walked off the job at all three automakers.

Since then, the union has employed a phased strategy it calls "strike and target," where workers at specific production plants are instructed to strike with about a two-hour notice, making it challenging for automakers to prepare for disruptions to their production lines and supply chains.

The union has used this approach to pit companies against each other, releasing companies from further strikes when they make new concessions, or as was the case on Monday, punishing them with new strikes when they claim their offers are inadequate.

This also allows the union to prolong the strike. Like many unions, the UAW provides "strike pay" to people who are not receiving their regular wages due to being on strike. Members receive $100 per day as assistance for each day of the strike. This doesn't fully compensate for their lost wages.

The union started with over $800 million in its strike fund, which was enough to cover 11 weeks of strike pay for all 146,000 members. However, more than a month into the strike, they have not had to pay out most of that amount.

With 40,000 workers on strike, it is expected that the union will be paying approximately $20 million per week from this fund.


Despite hurting the profits of automakers, the impact on them has been less than it would have been if more workers had walked off the job.

Last week, Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford stated that the strike poses a threat to both his company and the U.S. automotive industry. In remarks that illustrated their differing perspectives and rhetorical styles, Ford said at a press conference, "This should not be Ford versus the UAW. This should be Ford and the UAW against Toyota and Honda, Tesla, and all the Chinese companies that want to come into our domestic market."

Later that same day, Fein countered, "This is not the UAW and Ford against foreign automakers. This is auto workers everywhere against corporate greed."

Approximately 5,000 employees of General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis, the maker of Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles, have also been laid off. Automakers claimed it was necessary because these people have no work, while the union called it a pressure tactic.

Auto parts suppliers have also reported laying off workers.

The current strike has lasted slightly longer than the 2019 General Motors strike, which lasted 31 days before both sides reached a tentative contract agreement. Some past UAW strikes have gone on for several months.


Money, Tech