Volvo Trucks North America resumed production at its Virginia assembly plant on Monday, encouraging UAW strikers to come back to work under terms of its “last, best, final” offer.
UAW Local 2069 voted down a third tentative agreement on Friday by closer margins than two previous proposed deals rejected by 9:1 margins. The union scheduled a second ratification vote for Wednesday. If members vote in favor of the deal, they would get a $2,000 pretax signing bonus. If voted down again, Volvo will impose the terms of the latest agreement.
“Our last offer delivered significant wage gains and first-class benefits for our employees, and 40% of UAW voters supported it,” Franky Marchand, vice president and general manager of New River Valley Operations, said in a statement Sunday.
The union technically took three votes. It rejected hourly and general contract terms 60% to 40% and voted 67% against the pay package.
“We need to safeguard our future and start building trucks for the many customers and dealers whose businesses and livelihoods depend on our products,” Marchand said.
The implementation of the most recent tentative agreement put 2,900 Local 2069 members in a difficult position: Cross their own picket lines after six weeks of striking or hold out for an inevitable legal challenge to the company.
“We are asking all members to not cross the picket line,” Local 2069 President Matt Blondino said in a letter posted on the local’s Facebook page. “We are still on strike until further notice.”
“Basically they are trying to break our union by asking you to return to work tomorrow.”Matt Blondino, UAW Local 2069 president
In a video posted on Facebook on Sunday, Blondino said: “Basically they are trying to break our union by asking you to return to work tomorrow.”
Negotiations toward a new agreement, lengthened to six years from the previous five-year pact, began in February. Workers struck for 12 days after a 30-day contract extension expired April 17. They returned to work before rejecting the first tentative agreement. A second offer in June also failed, leading to the current strike, which began June 7.
On July 1, the third tentative agreement was reached. Provisions included raising the wage of hourly production workers to $30.92 in 2026 and eliminating a two-tier wage structure that had been in place since 2008. New workers started at a lower wage and needed eight years to reach parity.
No more negotiations
Blondino said in the video that no further negotiations would be held because Volvo said it had made its last, best offer.
“But If they give us a definite date of return back to work, that is the date a labor charge can be filed,” he said. “We cannot do that without this voting process.”
Worker sentiment in Facebook posts overwhelmingly criticized the company for using the signing bonus to sway workers who have been getting $275 a week in strike benefits.
“Sign-on bonus is like a carrot dangling in front of a steer led to slaughter, $2,000 … really chicken feed after taxes, maybe $1,100,” read one post.