Workers at the Stellantis casting plant in Kokomo went on strike at midnight Saturday following days of failed negotiations.
The United Auto Workers Local 1166 are striking for better working conditions, including the addressal of health and safety issues, clean uniforms that are provided to workers at other Stellantis plants and repairs to the factory’s HVAC system — which the UAW said was promised by Stellantis “years ago.”
According to Stellantis’ website, the Kokomo Casting Plant employs 1,213 people. More than 1,000 of those workers are represented by the union.
The website also states “Kokomo Casting is the world’s largest die cast facility.”
“Stellantis reaffirms its commitment to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. After bargaining in good faith for two days and presenting an offer we believed addressed the union’s concerns, we are disappointed by the UAW’s decision to walk out,” Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said via email. “We will look to get back to the table as soon as possible to resume negotiations to reach an agreement on a local contract.”
The UAW was in negotiations with Stellantis on Saturday afternoon, but Dave Willis, president of UAW 1166, commented early Saturday morning, “This is over working conditions.”
The strike comes months after Stellantis announced a joint partnership with Samsung SDI to build an electric vehicle battery plant in Kokomo. The factory will represent a $2.5 billion investment in Kokomo.
The battery plant will employ 1,400 workers. However, it is not yet clear who will employ the new factory’s workers and whether it will be unionized.
On Aug. 1, the company announced it would invest $99 million in three North American plants to produce new 1.6-liter, I-4 turbocharged engines. The engines would have “both direct fuel injection and flexibility for hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) applications. More than $14 million would be put toward the Kokomo Casting Plant to convert die cast machines and cells for production of engine blocks.
Currently, the factory produces parts for automotive components, transmission and transaxle cases and engine block castings.
“Stellantis claims it has no money to meet the basic needs of UAW Local 1166 members while, at the same time, it is making record profits and investing billions in a new battery plant across the street,” UAW Vice President and Director of the Stellantis Department Cindy Estrada said in a statement posted to the UAW website. “This strike represents UAW Local 1166 members telling Stellantis enough is enough.”
UAW President Ray Curry added, “UAW members have made Stellantis their profits, yet the company is indifferent to the working conditions that Local 1166 members must endure.”
“The working conditions at the Stellantis Kokomo Casting plant are unacceptable,” Region 2B Director Wayne Blanchard wrote in the statement. “UAW Local 1166 members have been patient with the company, but now is the time for them to have a new local collective bargaining agreement that corrects these issues.”
CNHI Indiana State reporter Carson Gerber contributed to this report.