Stellantis strike ends, new battery plant in Illinois; GM Lyriq plant sees walkout

UAW has announced that it has come to a tentative agreement with Stellantis to end the six-week strike, including job gains from the reopening of a plant in Belvidere, Illinois and addition of a new battery plant in that location.

Soon after, UAW announced that workers at GM’s plant which makes the all-electric Cadillac Lyriq will go on strike.

Just days after UAW made a tentative deal with Ford, the union has now announced a similar deal with Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler.

Just as with the Ford deal, not every detail is currently available, but will be presented to workers soon. The plan is to present details on Thursday, November 2nd, after which union members will be able to vote whether to accept the deal. Until then, UAW has directed workers to go back to work at Stellantis as a good-faith measure, and to show the remaining company, GM, that they can end the strike at any time once a deal is met.

In a video announcement, UAW President Shawn Fain and Vice President Rich Boyer laid out some of the specifics of the deal with Stellantis.

While we don’t know all of the details yet, some of the headline wins are a 25% general wage increase, plus cost-of-living adjustments. UAW says that the total wage increase from this strike is more than the combined wage increases between 2001-2022, just as was the case with the Ford deal.

For some other workers, wage and working condition increases should far eclipse that 25% increase, though. In particular, some workers at Mopar, Chrysler’s parts arm, and temp workers, will receive larger increases.

Additionally, one big specific win for UAW is the reopening of Belvidere Assembly in Illinois. This plant was idled by Stellantis in February, and was a point of contention in negotiations. UAW says that Stellantis has committed to reopening that plant and building a new 1,000-job battery factory at the facility.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the deal will mean “thousands of jobs, billions in investment, and a huge win for Illinois.”

In total, UAW says that Stellantis had originally planned to cut 5,000 jobs across the company, but that this deal includes commitments to add 5,000 jobs, resulting in a net swing of 10,000 jobs.

This is important because one of the key points of this negotiation is that electric vehicle assembly is likely to require fewer labor hours per car, because EVs have fewer parts. This would theoretically mean fewer auto jobs, or at least fewer hours (an equation which could also be solved by implementing a shorter work week).

They told us for years that the electric vehicle transition was a death sentence for good auto jobs in this country. We stood up and said no.

Shawn Fain, UAW President

In discussions over this strike, interviewers have repeatedly tried to get Fain to badmouth electric vehicles and blame them for wage or job problems, but Fain has never taken the bait, always insisting that the UAW is looking for a “just transition” to electric vehicles that ensures workers still get treated fairly as the industry is upended.

But the strike continues at GM, where a deal has not yet been reached. Earlier this month, GM had “leapfrogged” the other manufacturers in negotiations by agreeing to bring all US GM joint-venture battery plants under the union master agreement, ensuring that battery jobs be treated as well as general auto manufacturing jobs.

But progress since then has apparently been slower, as GM is now the last holdout that has not come to an agreement with UAW.

UAW has called its tactic a “stand-up strike,” where the plan is to start off striking at some facilities, and then gradually expand the strike as time goes on.

As a result, UAW workers have now decided to go on strike at GM’s Spring Hill Assembly Plant in Tennessee. This plant makes the GMC Acadia and the Cadillac XT5 and XT6, but also makes the all-electric Cadillac Lyriq.

It’s interesting timing for this, given that Lyriq production has finally gotten off the ground. After years of slow ramp for GM’s Ultium vehicles, Q3 finally saw a big jump in production and sales of the Lyriq, with 3,108 cars delivered. This was more than double Q2’s previous record of 1,348 cars. So this idling threatens to dampen the momentum behind the Lyriq if a deal is not found soon.