DETROIT After weeks of negotiations, the UAW this evening launched a strike against diesel engine producer International Truck and Engine Corp. Some 4,000 hourly workers at 11 locals in six states walked off the job at 5 p.m., the UAW said in a prepared statement.
Besides manufacturing tractor-trailer trucks, buses and chassis, International supplies the Powerstroke diesel V-8 for Ford Motor Co.'s hot-selling Super Duty pickups. It was unclear how soon Ford's pickup truck production would be affected by the walkout. A Ford spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
The company, in a statement issued this evening, said it was disappointed by the strike.
To continue production during the strike, International spokesman Roy Wiley said management and other non-union International employees would work on the line to deliver product to customers.
Were going to continue producing where necessary, Wiley said. Were using our nonunion employees that are already working for us.
Jeff Bowen, Internationals vice president of human resources, said in a statement that the company expects customers to continue receiving their orders in a timely manner.
This is the UAW's third major strike in the last month. The union struck General Motors for two days before reaching a contract settlement at the end of September. The deal was ratified earlier this month. Two weeks ago, the union staged a six-hour strike against Chrysler LLC before a tentative agreement was reached. Rank-and-file UAW members are now voting to ratify the Chrysler contract, and the outcome remains in question.
The International strike could be far more confrontational.
The UAW contends the strike is over unfair labor practices. The existing contract between the UAW and the company expired Oct. 1 and the union had extended the contract since then. Negotiations broke down Oct. 4 and resumed Sunday.
"International Truck and Engine has shredded our agreement, shipped our work out of the country, and trampled our nation's labor laws," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a prepared statement.
Said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union's heavy truck department: "Our bargaining committee came to these negotiations with every intention of reaching an agreement. But it takes two sides to reach a deal -- and it has unfortunately become apparent that management at ITE is not yet willing to work with us to negotiate a fair and equitable contract."
Holiefield said the company has violated U.S. labor law by making unilateral changes in the terms and conditions of employment -- ordering an illegal lockout at the company's assembly plant in Springfield, Ohio -- and by refusing to provide the UAW bargaining team with information necessary for negotiations.
The union also says the company has transfered work to non-union operations.
Wiley said the company announced in September that all medium truck orders would be transferred to International plants in Garland, Tex. and Escabedo, Mexico.
As is typical in most labor disputes, the UAW said it filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. In such cases, the NLRB can decide whether to issue a complaint against the company, which would trigger a drawn out administrative process. In rare cases, the NLRB can seek a court injunction against one side or the other.
The allegations are completely unfounded and false, and we will be vindicated, International's Wiley said.
Holiefield said the union is "prepared to return to the bargaining table at any time."
"If the company is willing to abide by the law and respect our hard-working members at ITE, we believe we can resolve our differences," he said.
The company said it has been bargaining with the union for more than two years to address the issues. In June 2006, a tentative agreement was rejected by the UAW rank-and-file by an 84 percent margin, the company said.
All of the changes we have been discussing are already in place at other UAW-represented manufacturers in our industry, Bowen said. Weve been bargaining in good faith for over two years, and we continue to work very hard to reach a positive outcome for our business and our employees. This strike is unfortunate, but it does not change our goals.
'Safety and respect'
Most important, during these times of high emotion and uncertainty, were asking that safety and respect continue to be top-of-mind for all employees, Bowen said. We remain ready to continue bargaining in good faith to reach an agreement.
The UAW said the following local unions are striking these operations:
- Local 98 at the International Indianapolis, Ind., Engine Plant, members of Local 226 at Indianapolis Casting Corp., and members of Local 2274, who are ITE clerical and technical workers in Indianapolis;
- Local 2911 at engineering operations in Fort Wayne, Ind.;
- Local 402 at the International Springfield Assembly Plant in Springfield, Ohio, and Local 658, the clerical and technical workers in Springfield;
- Local 6 at the International Engine Plant in Melrose Park, Ill., along with Local 2293, the clerical and technical workers in Melrose Park;
- Local 472 at the International Parts Distribution Center in Atlanta;
- Local 119 at the International Parts Distribution Center in Dallas;
- and Local 187 at the International Parts Distribution Center in York, Pa.
International is a unit of Warrenville, Ill.-based Navistar Corp., which ranks No. 45 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with estimated worldwide original-equipment automotive parts sales of $3.40 billion in 2006.