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Stellantis casting plant workers in Indiana ratify local contract

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Workers at a casting plant in Indiana owned by the maker of Jeep and Ram vehicles on Monday ratified a new local contract, according to the local union, securing demands around working conditions after an almost three-day strike.

The agreement between Stellantis NV and United Auto Workers Local 1166 in Kokomo Indiana, was reached late Sunday after workers went on strike early Saturday. The local updated its website on Monday evening, alerting members they had ratified the agreement. Details of the vote weren't immediately available.

UAW leaders earlier Monday championed the tentative agreement as obtaining key requests of the members. Since 2019, the local has been negotiating with the company, demanding that it install a new heating and air-conditioning system, pay for uniforms, repair equipment to secure work in-house, and address overtime language to protect departments and classifications.

“The environment in the plant has deteriorated over the years due to the company’s decision to save money by not properly maintaining or providing the proper HVAC in the plant,” UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada said in a statement. “The bargaining committee also fought hard to win dozens of demands that the members had submitted. This agreement will address these and many other issues that will benefit the Local 1166 members.”

Stellantis spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement that the company is pleased the agreement was ratified and that operations at the plant would resume Monday night. There was no impact to production at any other plants.

Kokomo Casting is the world’s largest die cast facility, according to Stellantis' website. The 625,000-square-foot plant produces aluminum parts for automotive components, transmissions and transaxle cases as well as engine block castings. It employs 142 salaried and 1,071 hourly employees. Both UAW Local 1166 and Local 1302 represent workers there.

Union activity, including strikes, has been on the rise nationally. The lack of enough workers to fill available jobs has empowered many employees to begin unionization campaigns and demand better wages and working conditions. National negotiations between the UAW and the Detroit Three automakers are set to begin next summer.

What electric vehicles, which have different and fewer parts than internal combustion engines vehicles, mean for their workers will be a key component of those discussions.

Stellantis in May announced with South Korean battery manufacturer Samsung SDI that their joint venture would construct a new $2.5 billion electric-vehicle battery plant in Kokomo, where Stellantis has several components plants. It is one of two battery plants Stellantis has announced in North America. The other is in Windsor, Ontario.

The casting plant itself last month was a part of a $99 million investment in three North American plants for production of a new 1.6-liter, I-4 turbocharged engine that can support gas-powered and hybrid-electric powertrains. More than $14 million of that will convert existing die cast machines and cells for production of the engine blocks at Kokomo Casting.

“The auto companies must know that our members will not be sacrificed with cost cutting efforts as they transition the auto industry,” UAW Region 2B Director Wayne Blanchard said in a statement. “The UAW membership has delivered quality products with their hard work and dedication while Stellantis has reaped record profits. Local 1166 members have shown that the membership of the UAW will push back when the company shows little regard for how their employees are treated.”

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble