Workers at a General Motors parts distribution center in Roanoke — about 20 miles from Fort Worth — are going on strike, United Auto Workers union president Shawn Fain said Friday morning in a Facebook live announcement. The center ships out parts for repairs to dealerships.
Close to noon, a group of workers holding signs chant “no deal, no wheels.” In total, about 125 workers are walking off their jobs in shifts three times a day, according to UAW Local 816 shop chairman Adam Martinez.
The workers are joining about 12,700 colleagues at three assembly plants in Missouri, Ohio and Michigan in an expansion of a strike initiated Sept. 15. Now, Fain announced, workers at 38 locations across 20 states at distribution centers are striking. Locations include a Stellantis distribution center in Carrollton.
A major focus of the negotiations is higher wages, job security, temporary workers and eliminating the “tier-based” pay systems at the companies. Sean Zepeda, an inventory clerk who has worked for the center for 10 years, said he hopes the strike and negotiations result in higher wages because rising prices are catching up with them.
“We were fine for a while, but we started losing overtime,” Zepeda said. “We’re struggling bad. For a minute we were living paycheck to paycheck.”
Fain said in a Facebook live video that some progress has been made with tiered wages and believes negotiations can be settled, but GM and Stellantis will need “some serious pushing.”
“This will impact these two companies’ repair operations,” Fain said. “Our message to the consumer is simple. The way to fix the frustrating customer experience is for the companies to end price gouging — invest these record profits into stable jobs and sustainable wages and benefits.”
More than 5,000 General Motors workers in Arlington are continuing to work under an expired contract, but are waiting for the call to pick up picket signs.
General Motors released a statement Sept. 15 commenting on the initiation of the strike at the three assembly plants.
“We are disappointed by the UAW leadership’s actions, despite the unprecedented economic package GM put on the table, including historic wage increases and manufacturing commitments,” the statement said. “We will continue 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.”
Ashish Sedai, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas at Arlington, said there are several reasons why the United Auto Workers would select a few plants over time rather than all of them at once.
The union only has so much money to pay workers going on strike — Sedai estimates about $800 million, which would last 11 weeks. The specific strikes also minimize financial hardship for workers — other employees are working under the expired contract, he said. By selecting specific plants, UAW strategically targets plants to maximize the economic impact of the strike.
“Because they are now disrupting the production of popular and profitable models, that can lead to greater financial losses from the company,” he said.
Selective strikes can be used as negotiation tactics because the threat of expanding can add additional pressure on the employer to meet the union’s demands, Sedai said. Another factor is public perception.
“Selective strikes can garner more public sympathy and support if the union can demonstrate that the grievances are reasonable, and that they are not causing excessive disruption to the economy,” Sedai said. “It can help build up public support for their cause.”
Experts such as Cliff Defee, an associate professor of supply chain management at the Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business, said consumers trying to buy a car won’t see effects of the strike immediately.
Overall car inventories reached 162,000 units in June following a pandemic dip but are still below the September 2019 high of 649,000, according to Anderson Economic Group analysis. However, Defee said, the strike could affect availability of particular car models.
“When you’d look at those inventory numbers, though, what you’re not really seeing is what the inventory situation is by model, because certainly some models are in higher demand than others,” Defee said.
The last auto strike was in 2019 and lasted 40 days.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @sbodine120.
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