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Local UAW members ready to strike as contract deadline with automakers looms

Ford Motor Company's F-650/F-750 medium-duty truck rolls off the line for the first time at the Ohio Assembly Plant Wednesday, Aug. 12, in Avon Lake, Ohio.
David Richard
Ford Motor Company's Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, where medium duty trucks are made, is one of three Northeast Ohio plants that could be targeted by a United Auto Workers strike.

United Auto Workers in Parma don't yet know whether their General Motors plant will be one those targeted for a strike at midnight Thursday, but leaders at UAW Local 1005 have prepared by obtaining permits to picket.

Local 1005 President Dan Schwartz said he spoke with Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter, the city's police chief and the law director in preparation for a possible strike at the metal stamping facility.

"With burn barrels and such and picketing, yeah we went ahead and obtained permit applications and all that and have those ready to go ... if we have to do that," Schwartz said.

An estimated 146,000 UAW workers nationwide could engage in what national UAW President Shawn Fain called "targeted strikes" against the "Big Three" automakers in Detroit; General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, Chrysler's parent company.

"We're going to announce more locals that are going to be called to stand up and strike," Fain said in a Facebook Live broadcast Wednesday. "These locals will join those that are already on strike, so our strike at each company will continue to grow over time."

The pace of strikes will increase if progress toward a deal isn't made, Fain said.

"If the companies give us an insulting offer, if they keep playing games, if they refuse to bargain in good faith, then we have the power to keep escalating and keep taking plants out," Fain said.

The Associated Press reports the targeted strikes will better maintain the UAW's strike payout fund, estimated at $825 million. The AP also reported that if all 146,000 UAW members strike at once, the fund would be depleted in about three months.

The 900 workers that Local 1005 represents have been ready for the strike possibility for weeks, Schwartz said. The plant, known as the Parma Metal Center, makes parts for the majority of GM vehicles built in North America.

"They're ready to go fight for what they deserve and there's some anxiety," Schwartz said. "There's some worry, which is expected, but the bottom line is we're ticked off. We're aggravated. We want our fair share of the pie."

Disputes remain on wages, pension and health benefits for retirees, time off and job security. Fain said Stellantis wants to retain the right to close 18 plants.

The automakers are offering wage increases between 17% and 20% over four years, while the UAW reduced it's request from 40% to 36%, according to the AP.

In a speech on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday, Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown said there's still time to avoid a strike. He cited the auto bailout in 2008

"These companies were in trouble," Brown said. "Government helped them, workers gave up a lot, workers sacrificed. Workers gave money back that they shouldn't have had to give back 'cause they wanted to save the companies. Now the companies are doing well, now the executives are doing very, very well — $21 billion in profits. And the companies are not willing to appreciably share in those profits."

Another issue is the status of temporary workers, who now do not have a defined path to permanent status.

Schwartz said he has about 12 temporary workers, and in the past, some stayed on temporary status for three to four years.

"They make 50% less than what a normal production worker makes," Schwartz said. "They don't get bonuses, they don't get vacation time, they don't get paid holidays. Mandatory overtime. They get forced to work Saturdays and Sundays and 12 hour days. They're abused, almost. It's kind of ridiculous."

Schwartz said electric vehicle production has been a significant part of the negotiations, as the big three want to become more competitive globally.

"Well, they need us," Schwartz said. "They need our backs and our blood and sweat and tears and labor to get them there. They have to be ready to share the profit and the wealth of that."

Other UAW posts at Ford plants in Brook Park and Avon Lake represent about 1800 workers. Northeast Ohio is home to 14 UAW posts.

Fain will announce the first set of targeted strikes Thursday at 10 p.m. if no deal is reached.

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.