Home » Oil Leaks, Stinky Toilets, Stifling Heat: As Stellantis’ CEO Fights To Cut Costs, The UAW Threatens To Strike Over Working Conditions

Oil Leaks, Stinky Toilets, Stifling Heat: As Stellantis’ CEO Fights To Cut Costs, The UAW Threatens To Strike Over Working Conditions

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On Monday, May 6 the UAW Local 869 voted to authorize a strike at Stellantis’ Warren Stamping Plant in southeast Michigan. This doesn’t mean a strike will happen, but it is a warning shot to the auto giant that it could happen. This comes on the heels of last year’s strike, where the union won record contracts with the Big Three. So why would there be another strike so soon? In a statement, the UAW says this is because of allegedly poor working conditions that Stellantis is refusing to address.

From the UAW:

Vidframe Min Top
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Workers at the plant are facing a wide range of unresolved issues, including problems with ventilation fans, ergo matting, personal protective equipment (PPE), flooding, basement lighting & flooring, restrooms, oil leaks, overall sanitation, and more.

In a video released by the union, two members said this action is about making sure people are treated properly.

“We must stand up and stand together for this health and safety grievance procedure because this is our livelihood,” said Local 869 member Chautay Smith. “So, let’s stand up at Warren Stamping and take care of us the way we need to be taken care of.”

“Not only do we want these health and safety grievances resolved, we want our members to leave the same way they came,” UAW Local 869 President Romaine McKinney III said. “We want members to understand they’re not just a number or just a body on the line. They will come to work and feel like they have some ownership in that building.”

Hit Them Where It Hurts, Their Wallet

According to Stellantis’ website, this facility was built in 1948. It supposedly saw a $63 million upgrade in 2014 for the purchase and installation of the “Servo Tandem Press technology” to allow it to turn out more than 12,000 parts a day. Those parts include “hoods, roofs, liftgates, side apertures, fenders and floor pans” for the “Dodge Durango, Chrysler Pacifica, Jeep Gladiator, Grand Cherokee, Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer, Wrangler and Ram Trucks (Light Duty and Heavy Duty).”

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FCA US Warren Stamping Plant (Michigan) employees rack part of a Ram truck hood. Photo: Stellantis

That’s a list of large SUVs, trucks, and luxury vehicles. Those are all vehicles Stellantis is likely prioritizing as they should come with very healthy profit margins. The union says those parts are later shipped to over half a dozen Stellantis plants, from Windsor, Ontario to Saltillo, Mexico.

Similar Story Overseas

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A worker at the Giambattista Vico Plant in Pomigliano d’Arco, Italy. Photo: Stellantis

As you may or may not be surprised to learn, this is far from the first time workers have been upset over allegedly poor conditions at a Stellantis facility. Last year, Stellantis NV workers at the Pomigliano d’Arco plant in Southern Italy held work stoppages to draw attention to conditions, according to Bloomberg.

“The plant is dirty and the toilets stink,” Marinelli said. “Work overalls are missing — some workers have to wait months to have the old and worn out ones replaced.”
This section sounds especially damning.
Stellantis Chief Executive Officer Carlos Tavares is known to leave no stone unturned to find cost savings with the strategy underpinning earnings rising to record levels. The concern over facility maintenance due to cutbacks at Pomigliano — where less than half of workers making the Panda took part in Friday’s protests — isn’t isolated with staff at other factories also pressuring management to improve conditions.
The Pomigliano d’Arco plant and two others in Italy were hit with layoffs earlier this year. A Stellantis spokesperson said they were due to the EV transition but stressed they were “strictly voluntary basis and mostly aimed at employees close to retirement age or willing to take new professional opportunities.”
There were also issues in France. Christine Virassamy, the head of France’s CFDT labor union told Bloomberg,
“Often there are clogged toilets, or soap is missing, or grass that doesn’t get cut,” she said in a phone interview. “Ventilators are missing in summer and it can get stifling in factories.”
I’ve also found a report that at a Stellantis plant in Hordain, France, workers walked off the line to protest conditions during a heatwave in September. Temperatures inside were allegedly over 96 degrees and there was a lack of air conditioning, ventilation, or even fans. I’ve reached out to CGT and Stellantis to confirm if the events took place.
So there appears to be a pattern of supposed poor conditions. The good news is that Stellantis had a record 2023, reporting $20 billion in net profit, with CEO Tavares compensated over $39 million for his hard work. I’m sure his bathroom is just as stinky.

Stellantis’ Response

I asked a Stellantis spokesperson for comment on the vote, conditions at the plant, the impact this could have on production, and the state of talks. This was their response.

While the members of UAW Local 869 from Stellantis’ Warren (Michigan) Stamping Plant have voted to authorize a strike, discussions between the Company and UAW are ongoing and employees are still at work. Stellantis remains committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees and resolving this matter without a work stoppage.

Will There Be A Strike?

That’s the question worth tens of millions of dollars, if not more. As of now, neither side is tipping their hand. Stellantis’ statement was boilerplate, but at least says they hope to reach a resolution without a work stoppage. I’d assume the UAW’s strike fund took a bit of a hit during their “Stand Up Strike,” and they would like to prevent their workers from losing wages, as there’s no guarantee Stellantis would offer backpay like it did last year once a new deal is reached. I’ve also been in contact with Local 869 President Romaine McKinney. So far, he’s not said anything about their next steps following the strike authorization vote.

For Stellantis, it would presumably like to keep churning out Grand Wagoneers and the country’s best-selling PHEV, the Jeep Wrangler. But at the same time, it’s almost literally trying to squeeze every penny.

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Stellantis is no longer accepting claims from suppliers for cost increases, leading some to strike. So far, this strategy of aggressive cost savings has made Tavares a lot of money. It would be a major surprise if he abandoned it now.

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Fasterlivingmagazine
Fasterlivingmagazine
15 days ago

Anybody else sick of hearing companies say, “here at X, we are committed to the health and safety of our enployees”, or something similar? Everytime i hear that i hear “we are committed to our bottom line. Everyone who spend their time and their health to help us succeed can go fuck themselves.”

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
14 days ago

Is this a coincidence or are you impersonating me?

Fasterlivingmagazine
Fasterlivingmagazine
14 days ago

Haha i didn’t know there was 2 of us, yes it is a coincidence. I will see if i can change my username as you were here first.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
14 days ago

Thanks. I didn’t think so because if you were trolling me and trying to get me banned you were doing a bad job, lol. I guess the Autopian just attracts weird minds that think alike. Crazy that a show that has never been that popular had two people on one website with screen names and avatars based on one character’s alter ego who was only in a handful of episodes.

Fasterlivingmagazine
Fasterlivingmagazine
14 days ago

Yeah definitely a funny coincidence, happy to meet a fellow fan of the good doctor.

Govinator3
Govinator3
15 days ago

I’m surprised in the headline picture that the employees are not wearing safety shoes? Is it common that line workers in automotive don’t need steel/composite toe footwear?

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
15 days ago

They treat their employees the same way they treat their customers and suppliers.

How the fuck are they still around? How do they actually turn a profit? A holding company for the world’s worst cars, AND they treat everybody like shit.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
15 days ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Welcome to 2024. It’s a good time to be horrible.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
15 days ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

Yes, but Chrysler is shitty even by 2024 standards 😛

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
15 days ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

There’s a reason they’re consistently going through bankruptcy, being bought, being sold, merging with new partners.

Spikersaurusrex
Spikersaurusrex
15 days ago

Stellantis had profits of $20 billion last year. They have no excuse for subjecting workers to these conditions. To people that say the employees/union should purchase a stake in the company to have better representation when it comes to these issues, I would reply that I shouldn’t have to own the building I work in to ensure toilets that flush and safe working conditions. If oil is leaking from machines, it creates health hazards. Extreme heat situations do the same, especially in physically demanding occupations. Failure to supply PPE shouldn’t be tolerated. If management expects workers to handle sharp bits of metal, they need to provide safety gear. If they expect workers to use volatile chemicals, they need to provide respirators.

Do owners have a right to expect a return on their investment? Of course, but not at the expense of health and safety for the workers. If you can’t provide a safe (to industry standard or better) workplace and still make a profit, you don’t have a viable business. If that means people lose their investments, so be it. Stocks aren’t safe. If you want safe, buy treasury bills and hope congress increases the debt ceiling.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
15 days ago

Here at Stellantis we’re committed to two things: Poor build quality and being outdated. We’re so committed that’ve made sure our employees experience the Stellantis ownership experience every time they clock in. That toilet designed built and installed by Daimler. It’s been taking Taco Tuesdays since 2006. Like a Chrysler 300, it’s well worn and familiar. Plumbing only works at unexpected intervals, like a 4XE. Mowing the lawn? We sold the riding mower at a Fiat dealership two years, and the guy who mows ain’t trying to do that with the electric push mower with no range we gave him. You’ve heard of The Toyota Way. Well, where did that get them? So, we on the Board were like “Why the hell not”, and proceeded to do none of that. We call it Shitzen, where everything gets continuously worse. Thank you, and see you the next earnings call.

EMBMW, Chief Marketing Officer

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
15 days ago

Years ago I tagged along with my former company’s EHS team on plant visits. They were gatheirng data on conditions in the plants to support a project to upgrade HVAC in the facilities. It was eye opening for an office drone like me. On a warm day a lot of the manufacturing floor would be around 80 degrees, but some pockets (pockets with people working in them!) would get to over 100.

Of course, the team was not able to get corporate management to approve the cap ex and the upgrades didn’t happen.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
15 days ago

Oil leaks and Stellantis. Yeah that tracks. Oh it isn’t coming from the vehicles?! Well that is new then. Pretty impressive when even the factories that build the vehicles leak oil. Bodes well for the vehicles themselves doesn’t it?

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
15 days ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

+1 came here for this

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
15 days ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

haha glad to be of service on this Monday morning.

Geoff Bennet
Geoff Bennet
16 days ago

Doesn’t Chrysler, FCA, Stellantis, (placeholder for next name) have huge inventories of unsold vehicles? It seems like a strike is what management would want since the employees effectively lay themselves off—which seems like that would cost Stellantus less than doing forced layoffs.

Last edited 16 days ago by Geoff Bennet
Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
15 days ago
Reply to  Geoff Bennet

Given their inventory excess, and the approach of summer in Michigan, both sides would welcome a month off.

Oafer Foxache
Oafer Foxache
16 days ago

Pretty much guaranteed: put decision-making in the hands of finance people and they will sooner or later destroy the company (after collecting an enormous bonus of course!): Look at McDonnell-Douglas (with Boeing heading exactly the same way), most things taken over by Hedge Funds, VC companies, Private Equity… they cut costs without ever understanding the product or what the customers want… power tools, hospitals, websites, confectionery, you name it. Just within the auto industry, how many times have we seen brilliant concept cars that the buying public would queue up to get, only for the penny-pinchers to remove all of the awesome and then fail to understand why they can’t even give that shit away…

Jon Myers
Jon Myers
15 days ago
Reply to  Oafer Foxache

I saw this first hand at the first place I worked. Company founded by an engineer, grown to 25,000+ employees focusing on making the most respected products in the industry. Founder passes. Management slowly transitions from technical leaders promoted from within to finance folks and MBAs. Every decision becomes based on “return on investment” because the MBAs don’t know what the customer wants and are unwilling to take any risks. The MBAs just decide based on the spreadsheets. I was laid off 20 years ago and at that time the company was maybe 8,000 employees. Now it has maybe 3,000. Platoons of upper managers flew away with golden parachutes while the regular employees get 1-2 weeks of severance per year of service.

Geoff Bennet
Geoff Bennet
15 days ago
Reply to  Jon Myers

Spreadsheet management.

Fasterlivingmagazine
Fasterlivingmagazine
15 days ago
Reply to  Oafer Foxache

Its all about that short term bottom line, just claim bankruptcy when the bad finally catches up (which somehow makes these assholes a shit ton of money) and move on to the next.

JTilla
JTilla
15 days ago
Reply to  Oafer Foxache

Late stage capitalism working exactly as intended. It is disgusting what has happened to companies in this country. This is what we get for getting rid of basic social regulations.

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
16 days ago

I’m not clear on all the workings of labor unions but the part ofthe quote where they said they want members to feel a sense of ownership in the building had me thinking. Why don’t unions use some of their dues to purchase shares of the companies they work with? Over time they could build a substantial stake if they hold while other large investors buy and sell. Then they’d have more of a voice in the boardrooms, more tools to negotiate besides work stoppages and an interest in the continued financial well-being of the companies. Investing like that could make the relationship between unions and manufacturers less antagonistic. Are there legal barriers to this idea?

SLM
SLM
16 days ago

There would be conflict of interests. If a company lose some money making the working condition better, it must not be a problem for the union, which it would be if the union savings were linked to the company shares.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
15 days ago
Reply to  SLM

I tend to feel that workers being vested in a company is a positive thing. There will always be some who never do more than the absolute minimum required to maintain their paycheck, but, observationally, most people will take more care, do better work, and treat the facility better if they have some ownership.

We have contracts with a wide range of facilities, and the difference in the zeitgeist is noticeable. In companies that treat employees as replaceable cogs, the mechanical rooms & maintenance shops are usually shit-shows as no one cares. At places with vestment programs, things are cleaner and better maintained ( and I have to assume, people are more productive ). To be fair, I have little interaction with the line workers, nor access to productivity figures, but the difference between a place where workers just put their time in and one where they care about what they produce is noticeable in how they interact with others and the machines they use.

Studdley
Studdley
15 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

The union members can invest privately, but the Local shouldn’t.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
15 days ago
Reply to  Studdley

A solid point I didn’t consider
-thanks

SLM
SLM
15 days ago
Reply to  Studdley

I was just going to say this.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
15 days ago
Reply to  SLM

employee-owned companies exist, though…

SLM
SLM
15 days ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Employee-owned, not union-owned…

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
15 days ago

They should use a works council, where labor makes up half the board. An actual seat at the table.

VW has this everywhere but the US, but they’ll have it here soon because they’re union now. The NLRB ruled that a works council is illegal without a union. That is also the reason VW was less hostile towards the union than others like Nissan.

Vanillasludge
Vanillasludge
16 days ago

I’m sure the toilet the CEO uses is polished daily. It has to look good as he runs the company into it.

Geoff Bennet
Geoff Bennet
16 days ago
Reply to  Vanillasludge

There is a joke in there somewhere about the CEO being a polished turd.

The Dude
The Dude
16 days ago

Lucky for these workers that the plant isn’t in Florida since it’s now illegal to institute protections for workers due to heat.

SooperDooperPooperScooter
SooperDooperPooperScooter
15 days ago
Reply to  The Dude

That applies strictly to outdoor workers yay

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