Proposal calls for closing Stellantis Milwaukee parts center and its 100 union jobs

A Stellantis Mopar parts distribution center in Milwaukee could close under a contract proposal with the United Auto Workers union.
Bay View Stellantis plant
Posted at 3:04 PM, Sep 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-20 10:16:49-04

MILWAUKEE — A Stellantis Mopar parts distribution center in Milwaukee could close under a contract proposal with the United Auto Workers union.

If the plant was closed, they would lose 100 union-represented jobs, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal.

Stellantis chief operating officer Mark Stewart said on CNBC Tuesday that there is a proposal to close multiple parts distribution centers, including in Milwaukee. The proposal was made before the UAW went on strike but Stewart said it was not accepted.

Tuesday evening, as employees left the facility, few shared any words with TMJ4 News as news began to spread about the potential of the plant closing. One put a thumbs up, acknowledging he had heard the news. Another believes it's just a rumor.

"The warehouse is not closing," the employee shouted from their car. "I've been here 14 years and they've been saying that the whole time."

"This is not about job reduction," Stewart said. "There is zero job change in the proposal we have towards those 18 parts distribution centers. It's about modernizing those."

Stewart says this proposal would afford some 1,200 positions at the Belvidere, Ill. facility. However, the Milwaukee Business Journal points out, "It's uncertain whether employees such as those in Milwaukee would gain rights to transfer to new facilities like the one proposed in Belvidere."

"It gives money. towards the companies and it's taking work away from the workers," Steven Frisque, UAW Local 722 President said.

Frisque represents some 120 employees at GM and Ford facilities in Hudson and Menomonie. This proposal would not impact the union workers he represents but he feels it's only a matter of time before they're facing the same reality.

"It's going to trickle down," Frisque said. "If one's doing it, they're all going to do it."

Despite the opportunity of employment in Belvidere, Frisque says that's a hollow promise. A job in a new location could disrupt the lives of these employees, much like it did for him in 2009 when Janesville Assembly closed. It forced Frisque to travel to and from Hudson, WI.

"You're talking about families," Frisque said. "You're talking about wives and kids. For 6 and a half years, I would drive back and forth from Hudson to Janesville. I was away from my wife and kids. How do you put a toll on that? That's what these companies don't seem to understand."

Stellantis is one of the Big 3 automakers and is behind the Jeep, Ram and Chrysler brands. UAW members are striking at a Stellantis assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio, among other Big 3 plants across the country.

COO Stewart said Tuesday they want to modernize their parts distribution centers so they can be more efficient.

The Stellantis Mopar plant at 3280 S. Clement Ave. in the Bay View neighborhood has about 100 UAW-represented employees in warehouse and non-supervisory white-collar positions, according to the BizJournal.

The facility includes warehouse buildings and parking for dozens of semi-trailer trucks.

United Auto Workers threaten to expand targeted strike if there is no substantive progress by Friday

By The Associated Press, Sept. 19, 2023

The United Auto Workers union is stepping up pressure on Detroit’s Big Three by threatening to expand its strike unless it sees major progress in contract negotiations by Friday.

In a video statement late Monday, UAW President Shawn Fain said workers at more factories will join those who are now in the fifth day of a strike at three plants.

“We're not going to keep waiting around forever while they drag this out ... and we’re not messing around," Fain said in announcing the noon Eastern time Friday deadline for escalating the strike unless there is “serious progress” in the talks.

Ford, General Motors and Stellantis said they want to settle the strike, and they held back from directly criticizing the escalation threat.

Mark Stewart, the North American chief operating officer of Stellantis, the successor to Fiat Chrysler, said the company is still looking for common ground with the UAW.

“I hope that we’re able to do that by Friday,” Stewart said on CNBC.

GM said in a statement, “We’re continuing to bargain in good faith with the union to reach an agreement as quickly as possible for the benefit of our team members, customers, suppliers and communities across the U.S."

A Ford spokeswoman said Tuesday that negotiations were continuing, but provided no additional details.

So far the strike is limited to about 13,000 workers at a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, a GM factory in Wentzville, Missouri, and a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio.

However, the carmakers have warned that there could be layoffs at other locations as the strike crimps the industry's supply chain.

GM warned Monday that the strike in Wentzville, near St. Louis, could force the company to idle an assembly plant in Kansas City early this week. On Tuesday, the company said that it expected to keep production going in Kansas City for at least one more day.

The strike could soon begin to affect suppliers to the Big Three.

United States Steel Corp. said it was temporarily idling one of its blast furnaces in Granite City, Illinois, an indication that the company expects the strike to reduce demand for steel. There are about 1,450 workers at the site — most of them represented by the United Steelworkers, but the company said many workers won't be affected by the furnace shutdown.

The area’s congresswoman, Democrat Nikki Budzinski, said U.S. Steel was using the strike as an excuse to idle the furnace. “Their effort to blame this announcement on the United Auto Workers strike is a shameful attempt to pit working people against one another,” she said.

A parts supplier, CIE Newcor, told Michigan officials that it expects a one-month closure of four plants in the state to start Oct. 2 and idle nearly 300 workers.

Jose Munoz, president and chief operating officer of South Korean car maker Hyundai Motor Corp., told reporters Tuesday in Atlanta that auto-parts makers would be disrupted by a long strike. Those problems could hurt production at nonunion automakers, not just the Big Three, he said.

“The way the supply chain works today, everything is interconnected,” Munoz said. “It is very difficult to have one supplier that is working only with one (auto manufacturer). So in a way or another, we will see disruptions in the supply chain which may impact companies over time.”

President Joe Biden said he would send two top administration officials including acting Labor Secretary Julie Su to Detroit this week to meet with both sides. Biden has publicly backed the UAW, saying workers deserve to share in the automakers' recent record profits.

Not all Democrats welcome the president’s involvement.

“I do not believe that the president himself should intervene as he did in the railroad strike in these talks. He should not be at that table,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, whose congressional district includes part of southeast Michigan.

The UAW has pointed to the car makers' profits — which the companies recorded as prices rose sharply on strong consumer demand and a limited supply of vehicles because of chip shortages and other issues. The union is seeking wage increases of more than 30% over four years and other sweeteners.

The companies say they can't afford to meet the UAW's demands because they must invest those profits to help them make the transition to electric vehicles.

Unifor, the union that represents Canadian autoworkers, extended talks with Ford Motor Co. by 24 hours early Tuesday after receiving a “substantive offer” on a new labor contract just as the current agreement expired.