United Auto Workers-represented employees at Mack Trucks overwhelmingly voted down a tentative agreement Sunday. They plan to strike operations in three states Monday.
The strike involves 3,900 workers at Volvo Group operations plants in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida. It coincides with but is separate from an ongoing UAW walkout at Detroit’s three automakers — General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram Trucks.
In a letter to Holly Georgell, director of employee and labor relations at Volvo Group North America, UAW International President Shawn Fain said 73% of workers rejected the proposed contract. Mack is part of the Volvo Group, which also includes Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA). VTNA is covered by a separate labor agreement.
‘Members have spoken’
“The members have spoken, and as the highest authority in our union, they have the final word,” Fain said. “Accordingly, the UAW will go on strike at Mack Trucks at 7 a.m. Monday.”
The tentative master agreement called for:
-A 10% pay increase in the first year
-A $3,500 signing bonus
-Improved retirement benefits
-Additional vacation for some employees and
-A reduction in the time needed to get to top pay.
Workers not covered by company benefits would have received an additional $1,000 contribution annually to their 401(k) accounts. The agreement shaved one year off the grow-in period — from six to five years — to bring new workers to the same pay as current workers.
In the strike against the Detroit automakers, the UAW is demanding the end of two-tier wages. It conceded to those during the Great Recession in 2007. It also is demanding the resumption of cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) that the union gave up in 2009.
‘Surprised and disappointed’
“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. “We clearly demonstrated our commitment to good faith bargaining by arriving at a tentative agreement that was endorsed by both the International UAW and the UAW Mack Truck Council.”
Such endorsements by local bargainers and the international union have carried less weight in recent years. UAW employees at VTNA rejected three tentative agreements before Volvo finally implemented terms of the new agreement in 2021 following a split vote.The UAW struck Volvo for five weeks in 2021.
“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,” Roy said.
Tough talk may have influenced rejection
Tough talk from Fain in the autoworkers’ strike may have encouraged Mack workers to turn down the 19% raise over five years of a new agreement. The UAW in Detroit demanded a 40% wage increase before the strike began Sept. 15.
A UAW splinter group called the Rank-and-File Committee Network agitated against the tentative agreement. The group includes Mack worker Will Lehman, who was one of five candidates for the UAW international presidency this year. Fain was declared the winner in a runoff with incumbent President Ray Curry in May following the UAW’s first direct election.
According to the World Socialist Web Site, which backs the rank-and-file group, about 400 UAW-represented Mack employees jeered and booed the tentative agreement at a review session on Saturday in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Strike called in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida
On Friday, Fain declined to expand the strike against the Detroit Three. He said GM agreed to add a battery-making plant to the union’s master agreement. Mack builds a small number of Class 8 electric refuse trucks at its assembly plant in Lower Macungie in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. It is planning an electric version of a medium-duty truck series it builds at a non-union plant in Roanoke, Virginia.
A 12-day UAW strike at Mack in 2019 began and ended while the UAW struck GM for 40 days.
The Mack master agreement covers 2,300 workers at Lower Macungie plus workers at parts distribution centers in Baltimore, Maryland, and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as an engine plant serving both Mack and Volvo in Hagerstown, Maryland.