For Rich Boyer, a UAW vice president and the head of the union’s Stellantis department, one issue is paramount in this round of contract bargaining, and it’s not wages, which have been a big focus of the outside attention.
“The issue is job security and putting product into these plants in this country. That’s the real issue,” Boyer said. “Because what good is it? You can give me a 50% raise, but if I have no job security, no place for these people to go, what does that matter? It matters nothing.”
Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Stellantis, which owns Jeep, Ram, Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat, have all proposed wage hikes around 20% over the life of the contract; the union initially proposed 40%.
Boyer was standing outside the Stellantis Mopar facility in Center Line, Michigan, on Friday, after the union announced it was expanding its so-called Stand Up Strike against the Detroit Three to include GM and Stellantis parts distribution centers, and he was fired up.
Changes the company has proposed to the footprint of Mopar and impacts in other areas, including to the workers who had been at the idled Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois, won’t come without job losses as the company insists, he said.
Boyer expressed skepticism, too, about proposals for Belvidere, including the years it would be before a battery plant might open there, if one were to go there. And even hundreds of jobs created by a battery plant and a big Mopar center wouldn’t make up for the losses, he said, counting the laid-off or transferred workers at Belvidere, where 1,200 worked before the plant was idled this year.
A statement earlier this month from UAW President Shawn Fain called Belvidere "a profitable plant that just a few years ago supported around 5,000 workers and their families."
The number of affected jobs overall at Stellantis, Boyer said, would be roughly 5,400.
“They’ll argue that point. They’ll say that it’s not true,” Boyer said. But “the only jobs they really want to guarantee are the people who stand on the lines.”
When asked about Boyer’s statement that 5,400 jobs would be affected by the company proposals, Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson referred a reporter to comments Mark Stewart, chief operating officer for Stellantis North America, made earlier this month.
The United Auto Workers union has said the company proposed the right to close or sell 18 facilities, but Stewart has called that misleading, saying there would be no job losses associated with any of the changes. The company operates many older parts distribution centers, some in rented facilities, and wants to modernize them, he told reporters.
As for Belvidere, Stewart said the company had proposed a “very compelling commitment” around jobs and a solution related to Belvidere, although he had said, when he made those comments Sept. 16, that the offer was contingent on reaching a deal before the expiration of the contract between the company and the union on Sept. 14. It’s not clear whether the same proposal was offered in the latest contract proposal from the company, which Boyer said the union planned to counter.
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On Friday, Stellantis pushed back against union positions, saying: "We presented a very competitive offer and yet never received a response. We continue to approach these negotiations responsibly and bargain in good faith."
On the subject of job security proposals, Stellantis, in an email from Tinson, said the company "has emphasized product allocation and plant performance are the triggers which enable job security. To this end, the company is proposing several vehicle allocations and billions of dollars in investments over the duration of the contract."
In addition, the company said it "offered workforce stability with a relevant level of production" in the United States during the duration of the contract as well as a "sustainable solution" for Belvidere with "comparable employment opportunities."
For Center Line and other nearby facilities, Boyer said the company wants to shift them to what he described as a super hub in Trenton, which is in the Detroit region’s Downriver area.
“This is a money grab. If they sell off all these places, it’s nothing more than a money grab,” Boyer said.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: UAW VP calls possible sale of Stellantis sites 'money grab'