Union workers at Volvo Group-owned Mack Trucks are now on strike after overwhelmingly rejecting a tentative five-year labor agreement reached with the company.
The United Auto Workers union announced Monday that some 4,000 Mack Trucks workers in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida walked off the job at 7 a.m., bringing the total number of UAW members on strike to more than 30,000 across 22 states. Union President Shawn Fain said in a letter that 73% of workers voted down the deal that negotiators had agreed to on Oct. 1.
"I’m inspired to see UAW members at Mack Trucks holding out for a better deal, and ready to stand up and walk off the job to win it," Fain said in a statement. "The members have the final say, and it’s their solidarity and organization that will win a fair contract at Mack."
The proposed deal had included a 19% pay increase over the length of the contract, a $3,500 ratification bonus, better retirement benefits, additional paid time off, and a reduction in time it takes for workers to reach top pay scale. But the UAW said "many topics remain at issue," including cost-of-living allowances, job security, holiday schedules, health and safety, pension, health care, and overtime work.
Mack President Stephen Roy said he was "surprised and disappointed" that the UAW had rejected the proposal and chose to strike, a move the company deemed unnecessary.
"We clearly demonstrated our commitment to good faith bargaining by arriving at a tentative agreement that was endorsed by both the International UAW and the UAW Mack Truck Council," Roy said in a statement. "The UAW called our tentative agreement ‘a record contract for the Heavy Truck industry,’ and we trust that other stakeholders also appreciate that our market, business, and competitive set are very different from those of the passenger car makers."
Mack, which was founded in 1900 and purchased by Volvo Group in 2000, is one the largest manufacturers of medium and heavy-duty trucks in North America. The company said it remains committed to the collective bargaining process and is confident the two sides can come to an agreement "as soon as possible."
The latest move comes as the UAW strike against Detroit's Big Three automakers enters its fourth week. Fain said Friday that the union was temporarily holding off on expanding the strike to even more plants, citing a "major breakthrough" in negotiations. The union went on strike at select GM, Ford and Stellantis factories on Sept. 15 and has since expanded to dozens of others.
A chief breakthrough in negotiations between the UAW and GM included an agreement to put workers at new electric vehicle battery plants under the union's national contract. UAW workers in the Denver metro area celebrated this as a win, despite not yet having an end to the strike in sight. Sherman Atkinson, president of the UAW chapter at the the Denver Parts Distribution center in Aurora, said the pledge "ensures work in the future" for auto workers. Still, he and his coworkers continue to strike for the pay they say they deserve and need to live in Colorado. The UAW is asking the big three auto makers for a 36 percent raise over four years. Ford has reportedly offered 23 percent, while GM and Stellantis have offered 20 percent.
"We deserve our fair share, and we're going to stand out here as long as it takes—wind, snow, rain, or hail," Atkinson said. "It's not going to deter us from standing here until we get what we want."
UAW workers in the Denver metro area joined the strike September 22, as part of a nationwide escalation amid ongoing talks. Now entering their third week on the picket line, Atkinson said he and his coworkers have only grown closer to each other and more committed to the strike. They also feel unity with striking workers from other fields, like the health care workers with Kaiser Permanente and the writers in Hollywood, he said.
"It says that corporate greed, people are a little sick and tired of it," Atkinson said of the strikes. "You know everbody uses that as a cliche, and I don't think it's really a cliche. When you look at the cost of goods, compared to what the work base makes. So, you've got to get some checks and balances in there so everybody has enough money to keep living."
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