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Jeep maker Stellantis makes a new contract offer as auto workers prepare to expand their strike

UAW Strike
Matt Rourke
UAW Strike

A company spokeswoman said the offer primarily covered non-economic issues.

General Motors and Stellantis announced fresh layoffs Wednesday that they blamed on damage from the United Auto Workers strike, and the labor standoff grew more tense just two days before the union was expected to call for new walkouts.

Stellantis provided a glimmer of hope for a breakthrough by giving the union a new contract proposal. However, a company spokeswoman said the offer primarily covered non-economic issues.

It was not clear whether the Stellantis offer would satisfy union President Shawn Fain, who vows to announce new strike targets on Friday unless there is “serious progress” toward agreements with GM, Stellantis and Ford.

So far UAW workers are striking at just three factories — one for each company, including a GM assembly plant near St. Louis. GM said that shutdown caused it to idle an assembly plant in Kansas with about 2,000 workers because “there is no work available" — the plant depends on parts stamped in the St. Louis-area facility.

GM said it does not expect to restart the Kansas plant until the strike ends, and it won't provide supplemental pay to the workers. The company said the layoffs demonstrated “that nobody wins in a strike.”

Stellantis, which makes Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge vehicles, said it expects to lay off more than 300 workers in Ohio and Indiana because “storage constraints” caused by the UAW strike at its assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio.

Asked for comment, a UAW spokesman referred to a statement last weekend in which UAW President Shawn Fain said layoffs were unnecessary and an effort to pressure workers to settle for less in contract negotiations.

Also Wednesday, about 190 UAW members walked off the job at ZF, a Mercedes supplier in Alabama, over wages, a lower scale for new workers, and health care benefits. The workers are covered under a different contract than those that UAW is negotiating with the three big automakers. A ZF spokesman said the plant was continuing to run, and the company hopes to reach an agreement with the workers soon.

The layoffs and the Alabama walkout ratcheted up tension two days before Friday's UAW deadline for the carmakers to show progress in meeting the UAW's demands. The union and the car makers continue to talk, but an industry official said Wednesday that the two sides remain far apart.

The UAW is seeking pay raises of more than 30% over four years, a restoration of defined-benefit pensions for all workers, and a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay. The companies are offering around 20% on pay and are staunchly resisting some of the union's other demands.

There was progress between one automaker and a labor union, but it happened in Canada.

Ford and Unifor, which represents Canadian auto workers, announced that they reached a tentative agreement on a new 3-year contract just hours before a strike deadline. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. If ratified, it would cover more than 5,000 workers and provide a model for similar deals at GM and Stellantis operations in Canada.