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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

UAW strikes Mercedes part plant; GM says wage demands too high

By David Welch and Keith Naughton Bloomberg

The United Auto Workers struck a plant that makes parts for Mercedes-Benz vehicles, as the union continued to weigh expanding the number of walkout targets at Detroit’s automakers.

On Wednesday morning, the UAW posted on X that 190 workers at a ZF plant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., that supplies front axles to Mercedes were now on strike.

The job action followed a union social media post Tuesday evening with a Spartacus movie clip showing “UAW locals waiting to go out on strike” as the title character’s fellow rebels in turn each stand and claim “I am Spartacus.”

Mary Barra, chief executive officer of General Motors, told the automaker’s salaried staff Wednesday that the union’s salary demands were too costly.

The company’s current offer would raise average yearly compensation to $150,000 a year, according to people familiar with the matter.

And while GM continued bargaining, the people said the two sides were far apart.

Stellantis said Wednesday it will temporarily lay off 68 employees at its Toledo machining plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, as a result of the UAW strikes.

The UAW will have a Facebook Live event on Friday at 10 a.m. local time in Detroit, where it will likely discuss whether additional plants belonging to the legacy Detroit carmakers will face strikes, a person familiar with the discussions said.

President Shawn Fain has said more plants faced walkouts if GM, Ford and Stellantis, the maker of Jeep and Chrysler models, didn’t sweeten their offers.

The new job action and Friday deadline raise the stakes for talks between three of the biggest automakers in the U.S. and the union representing 146,000 of their workers.

Friday will mark one week since the UAW called its first-ever walkout across all three of the legacy Detroit manufacturers.

In Canada, Ford reached a tentative agreement late Tuesday with Unifor, the Canadian autoworkers’ union, for a three-year national labor contract, though the company did not disclose specifics on the deal.

“When faced with the prospect of an all-out strike by 5,600 Unifor members at every single one of Ford’s facilities in Canada, the company made a significant offer,” the union said in a statement.

There were conflicting reports as to how the strike was affecting supplies.

S&P Global Mobility estimated that the strike is costing the companies output of about 3,200 vehicles a day.

But on Tuesday, Stellantis’s North American Chief Operating Officer Mark Stewart told CNBC that his company has inventory on hand to offset the strike’s impact.

Cox Automotive reported that the auto companies turned out cars at a fast clip ahead of the strike, leaving them with the highest inventory level since April 2021.

Jonathan Smoke, Cox’s chief economist, said that the UAW’s “start and stop” plant-by-plant strategy could “stretch this strike out longer than experienced in the past, but also have less of an immediate volume impact.”

A UBS note Tuesday cited Marc Robinson, principal consultant of MSR Strategy, as saying it could take eight weeks for there to be a strike resolution.