UAW Automaker Strike Affects Trucking as Mack Trucks Workers Join Picket Line

UAW Automaker Strike Affects Trucking as Mack Trucks Workers Join Picket Line

Tentative contract proposal rejected as strike involves 3,900 workers at Volvo Group operations plants USAW in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida.

The UAW is on strike at Mack Trucks (Volvo) as of Monday Oct 9, 2023. The strike affects 3,900 workers, including 2,300 workers at Mack’s Lehigh Valley Operations plant in Pennsylvania.

This is now the second walkout in 4 years as it coincides with, but is separate from, an ongoing UAW walkout at Detroit’s three automakers: General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis.

Let’s take a closer look at this strike.

Why are Mack UAW employees striking again?

Mack workers went on strike for two weeks in October 2019 before reaching a four-year labor deal that protected LVO production in Macungie, PA and maintained health care premiums for four years.

Earlier this month, an 11th-hour tentative contract agreement was reached between Mack Trucks and the UAW which averted a strike. But now this deal has been rejected.

The agreement called for:

  • 10% pay increase in the first year
  • $3,500 signing bonus
  • Improved retirement benefits
  • Additional vacation for some employees
  • Reduction in time needed to get to top pay

While Mack proposed a 19% wage increase over the five years of the contract, the striking workers argue that inflation has been so great that the union is well behind the economic curve.

The proposal would also eliminate an annual cost of living adjustment and increase insurance deductibles. 

Then came the tough talk from UAW President Shawn Fain in the autoworkers’ strike that may have encouraged Mack workers to turn down the 19% raise as the UAW in Detroit demanded a 40% wage increase before the strike began Sept. 15. 

“We are surprised and disappointed that the UAW has chosen to strike, which we feel is unnecessary,” Mack President Stephen Roy said in a news release Sunday night. “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.”

But striking workers said they believe the company’s proposal to eliminate job security language from the contract signals a plan to shutter the Macungie, PA plant and consolidate assembly lines elsewhere.

What Mack strike means for trucking

The Lehigh Valley Operations plant employs 2,700 people at a 1 million-square-foot facility that assembles all of Mack’s Class 8 vehicles for the North American market and export — including Anthem, Pinnacle, Granite, TerraPro and LR models.

Mack said it has invested more than $73 million in improvements in Lehigh Valley since the last contract was ratified in 2019, including insourcing chassis assembly in 2020. The project improved production quality, efficiency, and worker safety.

The LVO plant typically purchases nearly $80 million per year in automotive parts from 42 Pennsylvania-based suppliers and purchases more than $625 million per year in goods and services from 283 Pennsylvania-based suppliers.

For the waste industry, the strike affects the production of a marquee battery-electric refuse truck at a time when the manufacture of green technologies has begun to attract the attention of labor.

The City of New York’s Department of Sanitation used the truck in its first electric refuse hauler pilot and ordered seven more after that pilot concluded last year. The truck has also featured in several more pilots since Mack began taking orders in 2021 with Mobile, Alabama, and Cambridge, Massachusetts purchasing the trucks to add to their fleets.

The longer this strike goes on, the worse the delay in production for new trucks and supplier delays if they have to pause their production.

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