UAW members at Ontario distribution center walk out as auto workers expand strike to 20 states

Leticia Juarez Image
Friday, September 22, 2023
Ontario auto workers walk out as UAW expands strike to 20 states
United Auto Workers walked off the job at a parts distribution center in Ontario as the union expanded its strike against major carmakers.

ONTARIO, Calif. (KABC) -- United Auto Workers walked off the job at a parts distribution center in Ontario on Friday as the union expanded its strike against major carmakers, launching a work stoppage at 38 similar locations operated by General Motors and Jeep and Ram owner Stellantis in 20 states but sparing Ford from further shutdowns.

President Joe Biden said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he will visit Michigan on Tuesday "to join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create."

Ford avoided additional strikes because the company has met some of the union's demands during negotiations over the past week, UAW President Shawn Fain said during an online presentation to union members.

"We've made some real progress at Ford," Fain said. "We still have serious issues to work through, but we do want to recognize that Ford is showing that they are serious about reaching a deal. At GM and Stellantis, it's a different story."

Fain said GM and Stellantis, the successor to Fiat Chrysler, have rejected the union's proposals for cost-of-living increases, profit sharing and job security, and "are going to need some serious pushing."

GM said it has presented five "historic" offers covering wages and job security.

"Today's strike escalation by the UAW's top leadership is unnecessary," the company said in a statement. "The UAW leadership is manipulating the bargaining process for their own personal agendas."

It was the first time in the union's 88-year history that it walked out on all three companies simultaneously as four-year contracts with the companies expired at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

Stellantis said it made "a very competitive offer" Thursday that would pay all current full-time hourly employees between $80,000 and $96,000 within four years and seven months and allow "workforce stability" during that time. The company said the UAW has not responded.

Instead of targeting more production plants Friday, the UAW went after centers like the one in Ontario that distribute parts to car dealer service departments. That could quickly drag consumers into the middle of the fight, if dealers run short of parts.

"Our members are basically fed up," Jesse Ramirez, president of UAW Local 230, told ABC7. "They're tired of constantly dealing with not getting raises, not being treated fair, having a tier system in play."

The UAW said the new walkouts will affect 5,600 workers on top of the nearly 13,000 who began strikes last week at three Ford, GM and Stellantis assembly plants. Those original strikes will continue, the union said.

"I was able to retire with a pension," retired UAW worker Mark Masoak said. "We had cost-of-living benefits there. And we had a single tier, so everyone made the same wage. And now what they did was horrible. So I'm here to support them in trying to restore a single, good wage for all auto workers."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.