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Streetsboro Stellantis distribution center workers join UAW strike

UAW workers, many wearing red shirts, march carrying picket signs reading, "UAW on strike."
J. Nungesser
Ideastream Public Media
UAW workers chanted, “No justice, no parts,” outside the Stellantis distribution center in Streetsboro on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.

Chanting “No contract, no peace” and “No justice, no parts,” some 60 workers at the Stellantis Chrysler Mopar Cleveland Parts Distribution Center in Streetsboro walked off the job, joining union members at 37 other General Motors and Stellantis plants in 20 states as the United Auto Workers strike ramped up on Friday.

Day shift workers wearing red UAW shirts walked off the job at noon as part of a "stand up" strike strategy, according to UAW President Shawn Fain, who said in a video Friday, the workers are seeking to “win record contracts after years of record profits.”

“It used to be a big thing that – ‘oh, you’re an autoworker, you’re doing well.’ No, we’re not,” said Kelly Monegan, a scheduling coordinator who’s been with the company for nearly 26 years.

Wages through the years haven’t kept up with the cost of living, Monegan said.

Monegan is what’s known as a “legacy employee,” meaning she was hired before 2007, she said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown listens to UAW member Kelly Monegan at the strike.
J. Nungesser
Ideastream Public Media
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown listens to UAW member Kelly Monagan discuss the strike.

After facing major economic shortfalls during the Great Recession and eventually declaring bankruptcy, Chrysler – now owned by Stellantis – changed employee benefits, cut pensions and set lower wages with new employees to help stay afloat.

Employees hired after 2007 are on a “tiered” pay scale – one of the key disagreements between UAW and leaders of the auto companies, Monegan said.

Monegan is especially concerned for newer hires who don’t have the pay and benefits she and her colleagues had when they were at that level.

UAW member Krista Burcham wears a red shirt and black baseball cap as she talks into a long microphone.
J. Nungesser
Ideastream Public Media
UAW member Krista Burcham is a picker at the Stellantis parts distribution center in Streetsboro. She joined the picket line on Sept. 22, 2023.

Take, for example, Krista Burcham, a picker at the plant who was hired in 2016.

She’s frustrated with the staggered pay scale, she said.

“There’s people that worked, like, a year and a half longer than I have, and they’re making nine, 10 bucks more an hour than I am… and we’re working the exact same job,” Burcham said.

Burcham would like the auto companies to do away with the tiered system and bring back cost-of-living increases, as well as improve medical benefits.

UAW member Shannon Cardinale talks to Ideastream Public Media's Anna Huntsman on why the strike is vital to young workers.
J. Nungesser
Ideastream Public Media
UAW member Shannon Cardinale has been working at the Streetsboro plant for nearly 25 years.

Shannon Cardinale, a Local 573 member who’s worked at the Streetsboro plant for nearly 25 years, recalled supporting her daughter, who’s now an accountant, while living paycheck to paycheck in the early days, she said.

“I know that I was fortunate enough to do that, but there's a lot of people in this world that haven't, and the people who are working underneath me are never going to be able to do that. And that's not fair,” Cardinale said.

About 50 of the union members striking in Streetsboro used to work at a stamping plant in Twinsburg, said member Charvis Brantley.

Chrysler closed the plant following its bankruptcy in 2010. To help offset the economic shortfalls from the recession, the union agreed at the time to give up some contractual rights and overtime rates, Brantley said, but they were told they’d get those concessions back.

That still hasn’t happened, he added.

"A lot of people think we're asking for something that we don't deserve - these are actually things that we had that we gave up so the company could keep going. A lot of people don't know that, but those are the truths,” Brantley said. “We gave up these things in concessions to keep the company going, and they don't even want to talk about it anymore."

The union is also seeking a 40% wage increase and a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay.

"We’re not going to wait around forever for a fair contract at the Big 3," Fain said in his Friday video. "The companies know how to make this right."

The Streetsboro workers join union members in Toledo, Detroit and Wentzville, Missouri, who began the strike Sept. 14.

Updated: September 22, 2023 at 5:43 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include comments from UAW members participating in the strike at the Stellantis Chrysler Mopar Cleveland Parts Distribution Center.

Corrected: September 22, 2023 at 5:41 PM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that autoworkers at 40 plants joined the strike Friday. It was 38 plants.
Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.
Annie Wu is the deputy editor of digital content for Ideastream Public Media.