More than 1,000 union members at Stellantis‘ castings plant in Kokomo, Ind., went on strike Saturday after contract negotiations broke down, putting pressure on a key link in the automaker’s production of engines and transmissions for vehicles sold in North America.
Members of UAW Local 1166 said the company has deprived them of a “safe and comfortable workplace” by neglecting to repair HVAC systems and address other health and safety issues, according to a UAW statement. The Stellantis website said the plant is the largest die-cast facility in the world and makes engines and transmission parts.
“Stellantis claims it has no money to meet the basic needs of UAW Local 1166 members while, at the same time, it is making record profits and investing billions in a new battery plant across the street,” UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada said in the statement. “Enough is enough.”
The walkout is a early sign of the tension between automakers and the union as the industry shifts to electric vehicles. Stellantis and South Korea’s Samsung SDI Co. announced in July they’re investing $2.5 billion to build a battery plant in Kokomo. The union is worried about protecting jobs at combustion-engine parts factories and wants to ensure that workers who make batteries have UAW representation and comparable wages and benefits.
The Kokomo castings plant makes parts for multiple vehicles, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive. Since carmakers keep a minimal parts inventory the walkout could shut down assembly plants quickly, but the strike probably won’t last long, he said.
“After bargaining in good faith for two days and presenting an offer we believed addressed the union’s concerns, we are disappointed by the UAW’s decision to walk out,” Stellantis said in an emailed statement. “We will look to get back to the table as soon as possible to resume negotiations to reach an agreement on a local contract.”
In August, Stellantis said it would invest $99 million in Kokomo Casting and two other parts plants to make new hybrid engines.