A United Auto Workers strike at Volvo Trucks North America entered its third week Monday with the impact spreading to a Maryland engine plant that serves both Volvo and sibling Mack Trucks.
“The strike has affected Hagerstown, which has reduced the number of shifts for some operations, last week and this week,” Volvo Group spokesman John Mies told FreightWaves.
The protracted labor dispute began in February when talks began on a new contract to replace a five-year pact signed in 2016. After extending the contract for 30 days beyond its March 16 expiration, the union representing 2,900 workers walked out for two weeks before being told by their union negotiators to go back to work pending a ratification vote of a new agreement.
But Local 2069 overwhelmingly defeated the proposed contract. They stayed on the job until June 7, a day after voting 9-1 against a second proposal that extended the contract to six years.
Pay increases, how long new workers have to wait to earn as much as workers hired earlier, work schedule issues and benefits for retirees are all on the table.
Workers criticize bargainers
But the antipathy that local members have for their bargainers may be more intense than for the company that has said it cannot understand why the tentative agreements keep getting rejected.
“Hopefully the Bargaining Team doesn’t try to screw us again,” read one post on the local union’s Facebook page.
Both Local 2069 President Matt Blondino and UAW International Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry wrote to strikers last week, lauding their solidarity for being willing to go back on strike after rejecting the second tentative agreement.
Both local and international union officials appeared to turn their frustration toward the company, which has continued to run the New River Valley Operations plant in Dublin, Virginia, with non-represented workers while increasing security.
“We are not hiring nonunion workers,” Mies said. “But we do have nonunion Volvo employees in the plant, working on completing trucks in process and reducing the impact of the strike on our customers.”
Of the additional security, Mies said that is “normal procedure” for a strike.
“We always focus on safety,” he said, “and having a trained presence should be reassuring to everyone.”
Blondino’s message to members suggested Volvo is trying to “test the mettle” of strikers.
“For all of Volvo’s acknowledgement that more needs to be done and to not demonize the company, the reality is that this is the same company that cut off our health benefits,” he wrote on Facebook. “We have been requesting bargaining sessions. Volvo has refused to schedule these discussions.”
Members of UAW Local 3520, representing workers at a rival Daimler Trucks North America plant in North Carolina, walked the Local 2069 picket lines in Virginia on Saturday, prompting Facebook messages of thanks from the striking workers.
Mies said the two sides will hold their first bargaining session Wednesday since the second tentative agreement was rejected on June 6.
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