The United Auto Workers strike that kicked off early Friday is so far confined to three assembly plants — a GM factory in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford plant near Detroit and a Jeep facility in Toledo, Ohio run by Stellantis.
But if union President Shawn Fain opts to expand the national walkout with local action, workers at a Mopar parts distribution warehouse in Ontario are ready to walk.
Mopar is the parts division of Stellantis, and the Ontario facility — which supplies parts to dealerships throughout California, Nevada and Arizona for Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, Ram and scores of other vehicles — has weathered heavy job losses.
The warehouse used to employ about 250 employees. But much of the work in recent years has been outsourced to low-paying, nonunion shops, whittling the staffing to 137.
“It has resulted in shipping delays, inaccurate orders and customer dissatisfaction,” said Jesse Ramirez, president of UAW Local 230. “These are non-union operations with little or no safety standards. Products are getting lost.”
Ramirez wants to see those jobs brought back. And the Ontario workers, like other UAW members, are seeking higher wages as profits at the Big Three automakers soar. In the first half of 2023, Stellantis, Ford and GM reported profits of $11.6 billion, $3.7 billion and $5 billion, respectively.
Workers picketed the Ontario warehouse at 5141 Santa Ana St. on Thursday of last week and on Friday, Sept. 15 to get their message out.
Ramirez has worked at the facility for 25 years and makes $31.67 an hour. Others earn far less.
“Now, anyone hired after 2017 can only make a maximum of $25 an hour with no pension,” he said. “The entry-level pay is about $19 an hour and it takes them five years to get to $25.”
UAW workers are seeking across-the-board wage increases of 36% over four years. So far, the automakers are offering far less. Ford and GM have offered a 20% bump over four years, and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) has proposed a 17.5% increase.
“Despite the ever-increasing cost of living, our pay has remained low and stagnant,” Ramirez said.
Top-scale assembly plant workers make about $32 hourly, The Associated Press reported, plus large annual profit-sharing checks. Ford said average annual pay including overtime and bonuses was $78,000 last year.
Roughly 13,000 of 146,000 workers at the three companies are on strike, which will disrupt operations for the automakers and drain some of the union’s $825 million strike fund.
If the contract negotiations drag on and the strikes expand to affect more plants the costs will grow for workers and the companies. Auto dealers could run short of vehicles, forcing them to boost prices and pushing customers to buy from foreign automakers with nonunionized workers.
It could also put new stress on an economy that’s been benefiting from easing inflation.
In televised remarks Friday, President Biden said the Big Three automakers are making record profits that “have not been shared fairly, in my view, with workers.”
“No one wants a strike,” Biden said. “But I respect workers’ right to use their options under the collective bargaining system. Autoworkers sacrificed so much to keep the industry alive and strong, especially through the economic crisis and the pandemic. Workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create for an enterprise.”
Ramirez said it’s important to get UAW’s message out.
“By raising awareness, we can create a united front against corporate greed and fight for fair wages, benefits and job security,” he said. “We stand in solidarity.”
UAW Local 230 is part of UAW Region 8, which includes about 50,000 members throughout California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and scores of other states reaching as far east as West Virginia, Maryland and Florida.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/09/15/uaw-workers-at-ontario-parts-distribution-center-poised-to-strike/ UAW workers at Ontario parts distribution center poised to strike – Orange County Register