Over 1,000 workers have gone on strike at Stellantis.
The unionized employees stationed at the Stellantis Kokomo casting plant are frustrated with their poor working conditions. This is according to the United Auto Workers (UAW), which reports members of the Local 1166 Kokomo brand are pleading with the group to provide a "safe and comfortable workspace."
Demands range from simple hygiene issues to larger problems concerning ventilation, and it seems that workers have finally had enough, as Wayne Blanchard explains.
"The working conditions at the Stellantis Kokomo Casting plant are unacceptable, said the regional director in a statement. "Members have been patient with the company, but now is the time for them to have a new local collective bargaining agreement that corrects these issues."
Among the demands, workers have asked management to repair and maintain the problematic HVAC system (an issue the UAW claims Stellantis had promised to rectify), implement certain rules, and provide clean uniforms - a service reportedly extended to workers at other facilities.
"Stellantis claims it has no money to meet the basic needs of UAW Local 1166 members while, at the same time, it is making record profits and investing billions in a new battery plant across the street," said Cindy Estrada, UAW VP and Director of the Stellantis Department.
Estrada is talking about the company's joint venture with Samsung SDI. Together, the partnership invested $2.5 billion and plans to have an initial annual output of 23 gigawatt-hours when production commences in 2023.
"This strike represents...members telling Stellantis enough is enough," added Estrada.
If the strike goes on for long enough, it could strike a devastating blow to Stellantis. Production of key vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, for example, could be disturbed and threaten supply in an already-crippled market. Previously, the automotive conglomerate invested a substantial amount into Kokomo Casting and several other facilities, as it plans to produce a next-generation eight-speed transmission for electrified vehicles.
UAW President Ray Curry remarked that"members have made Stellantis their profits, yet the company is indifferent to the working conditions that Local 1166 members must endure."
In a statement issued to Automotive News, Stellantis said it has tried to find a middle ground with UAW.
"After bargaining in good faith for two days and presenting an offer we believed addressed the union's concerns, we are disappointed by the UAW's decision to walk out...we will look to get back to the table as soon as possible to resume negotiations to reach an agreement on a local contract."
However, the publication reports that a tentative agreement has since been reached, but it's unclear as to whether workers have returned to the factory floor. The automaker provided a cryptic glance into proceedings, noting that the respective parties had "reached a proposed tentative agreement on a new local contract."
Of course, the elephant in the room is the looming electrified era. Stellantis is on a warpath and will soon offer EVs in every shape, size, and flavor - casting a shadow on the future of its ICE products. For workers at the Kokomo plant, for example, this could spell trouble. The automaker certainly won't require engine and transmission plants shortly.
Hopefully, these roles can be modernized in a way that doesn't require mass job cuts. Interestingly, over at Ford, nearly 3,000 white-collar workers were given the chop as the company continues to streamline its processes for the EV era.