ORLANDO, Fla. — A nationwide auto worker strike has now hit Central Florida.
The President of United Automobile Workers (UAW) announced their ongoing strike against the Big 3 U.S. automakers would be expanded.
At noon on Friday, workers from 38 Parts Distribution Centers across 20 states joined the strike.
The union has been on strike against Ford, GM, and Stellantis since Sept. 15 when around 13,000 members in Missouri, Michigan, and Ohio walked off the job.
Thousands of additional auto workers joined picket lines Friday, including in Orlando.
About 70 United Auto Workers with Local 1649 walked out of the Stellantis Orlando Parts Distribution Center.
The center provides car parts for companies in the Stellantis brand, including Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep.
Workers say the location is strategically important, as it provides car parts needed for car repairs at dealerships across Florida, in parts of Georgia, and the Caribbean.
“We also service Central and Latin America, we’re basically the national PDC [Parts Distribution Center] for those regions. And service is now stopped. This should get the company’s attention,” said Dwight Brubaker, who works at the Orlando Center and is a Local 1649 union member.
UAW President Shawn Fain said Parts Distribution Center workers who walked out across the country Friday desperately need wage increases.
According to Fain, a tier system at Stellantis and GM means some workers at Parts Distribution Centers are permanently stuck on lower wage scales.
“For workers hired after 2015 top pay maxes out at 25 dollars an hour and it takes eight years to get there,” Fain said.
The union is now demanding double-digit pay raises. They say it’s only fair given the 40 percent pay spikes the Big 3 auto CEO’s reportedly made over the last four years.
“Both companies are still offering a deficient cost of living allowance projected to provide zero increases over the next four years,” said Fain.
On Friday, Fain said progress has been made negotiating with Ford, but negotiations with General Motors and Stellantis stalled, which is why he called for a strike expansion for workers with those companies.
“We will shut down parts distribution until those two companies come to their senses and come to the table with a serious offer,” said Fain.
Workers in Orlando say only managers are left inside the center, so no car parts can be produced.
Meanwhile, the 70 people on strike in Orlando say they’ve prepared for this moment. Many of them say they’ve saved up so they could manage on the $500 a week union strike pay.
Brubaker said he’s ready to strike until a negotiation is reached.
“We all show up to work every day. We bust our tails, and we do everything we can to make this company successful… So, we’re doing our job for the company. Now it’s time for them to step up and do right by us,” Brubaker said.
A Stellantis spokesperson didn’t answer our questions about the strike expanding but told us the company made the union an offer on Thursday. That offer includes all current full-time hourly employees earning at least $80,000 by the end of the contract.
“We question whether the union’s leadership has ever had an interest in reaching an agreement in a timely manner. They seem more concerned about pursuing their own political agendas than negotiating in the best interests of our employees and the sustainability of our U.S. operations given the market’s fierce competition,” said a spokesperson.
According to that representative, they have not heard back about their latest offer. But they believe it is competitive while also allowing them to compete internationally.
The spokesperson added in a prepared statement that they look forward to good faith bargaining to reach an agreement.
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