Kokomo workers may get a new contract to vote on as Stellantis reaches tentative agreement with UAW
The United Auto Workers union is ending its 44-day strike at Chrysler-parent Stellantis after reaching a tentative agreement that union leaders say “got every penny possible out of this company.”
“Your national negotiators and myself couldn't be more proud and honored to bring this tentative agreement to you for a vote,” said UAW International President Sean Fain. “But what happens next is not up to us. The membership is the highest authority in our union. It's your vote and your choice. So now our democratic process will unfold.”
Few details were shared about the agreement in the initial announcement video, posted to the UAW's social media channels. More information will be released to members and the public on Thursday, Fain said, if the UAW’s National Stellantis Council votes to send it out to members that day.
Now that the tentative agreement has been reached, striking workers will return to work while they vote on the contract. None of the company's five Indiana plants were called to join the union's "stand-up" strike, which only targeted certain facilities as negotiations went on in an effort to push the company to meet union demands. All five of those plants are in the Kokomo area.
Ford reached a tentative agreement with the union on Wednesday, leaving General Motors as the only one of the “big three” automakers without a deal.
Earlier on Saturday, the union expanded its strike at GM to include a Tennessee plant.
Workers at some plants that weren't part of the targeted strike have faced layoffs as production slowed due to work stoppages further up the supply chain. That included over 1,000 workers at a transmission plant and casting plant owned by Stellantis in Kokomo. It's not clear yet how quickly those workers will get to return to the assembly lines now that the tentative agreement has been reached.
In the announcement video, Fain and the union's vice president, Rich Boyer, did share that the new agreement includes a 25 percent wage increase over the life of the four-year contract.
“UAW members at Stellantis will receive more in straight general wages over the next four and a half years than we have over the last 22 years combined,” Boyer said. “We also won back some core things that we had lost over the years. We won back our 2009 [cost of living adjustment formula].”
That means workers will be able to earn a top wage of over $40 an hour by the end of this contract. And they will be able to reach that top wage after just three years of working for the company, rather than the eight-year progression currently in place.
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Temporary workers would also see significant wage increases under this tentative agreement, Fain said.
“And the system of 'perma-temps,' where this company keeps thousands and thousands of our members in permanent lower class status, that system has now ended,” Fain said. “Immediately upon ratification, thousands of temps will be converted. No one will remain a temp for more than nine months after ratification.”
"Over 5,000" new jobs will be added under her investments secured in the agreement, according to the union's announcement. That includes resuming production at the company's idled assembly plant in Belvidere, Illinois, just west of Chicago. The agreement also included the addition of a new electric vehicle battery plant in that community.
It's not clear whether the new Belvidere battery plant will be part of the UAW national contract that covers most of the company's traditional hourly manufacturing workers. Stellantis, Ford and General Motors had historically resistedmaking their battery plants part of the national contract.
Earlier this month, GM reversed its position by agreeing to make all battery plants, including one being built near South Bend, part of the national contract. Fain and Boyer did not explicitly say whether Stellantis has agreed to do the same for the Belvidere battery plant or any others, like the two Stellantis is planning to build in Indiana.
If the UAW National Stellantis Council votes to send the contract to broader membership, local leaders will hold informational sessions as workers begin to vote on the agreement.
If the members vote to accept the contract, then the strike will be officially over and the new terms will go into effect. If the contract is rejected, then both parties will have to return to the negotiating table and the strike may resume.