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After Rejecting Deal, 4,000 UAW Members Strike at Mack Trucks

The unusually public negotiations between UAW and the Big Three automakers offer Mack workers a point of reference.

United Auto Workers (UAW) members attend a rally in support of the labor union strike at the UAW Local 551 hall on the South Side on October 7, 2023, in Chicago, Illinois.

Nearly 4,000 United Auto Workers members walked out of Mack Trucks facilities in three states on Monday after voting down a five-year contract with the Volvo Group subsidiary amid a weekslong UAW strike at “Big Three” automakers and other labor actions.

“I’m inspired to see UAW members at Mack Trucks holding out for a better deal, and ready to stand up and walk off the job to win it,” UAW president Shawn Fain said in a statement. “The members have the final say, and it’s their solidarity and organization that will win a fair contract at Mack.”

In a Sunday letter informing company leadership of the strike, Fain wrote that 73% of members voted against the tentative agreement. He also highlighted outstanding issues including wages, cost-of-living allowances, health and safety, job security, holiday and work schedules, overtime, healthcare coverage, and retirement benefits.

The rejected deal — which Fain previously called “a record contract for the heavy truck industry” — featured 19% gross wage increases, a $3,500 ratification bonus for seniority employees, an additional $1,000 annual 401(k) payment, pension benefit boosts, and a freeze in healthcare costs.

Mack Trucks president Stephen Roy said in a statement that “we are surprised and disappointed that the UAW has chosen to strike” at facilities in Jacksonville, Florida; Macungie and Middletown, Pennsylvania; and Baltimore and Hagerstown, Maryland.

Noting the potential ties between the Mack Trucks developments and the UAW’s ongoing battle with automakers Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, Barron’s reported:

The negotiation between the Detroit Three and the union has been unusually public. The fact that Fain has made public what the union is demanding from Ford, GM, and Stellantis gives the Mack workers a basis of comparison. And the offer made to them doesn’t seem to be as good. The Mack offer included a roughly 20% raise over five years, while the Big Three all agreed to pay more than 20% over four years.

“This war is not against some foreign power. The frontlines are right here in our homes. It’s a class war on humanity,” said Fain at a rally in Chicago on Saturday. “We’re gonna keep going until we win social and economic justice at the Big Three and beyond.”

The strength of that rhetoric, plus Fain’s disclosures about the talks with the Big Three, may well have tipped the balance. The union had no immediate comment on how Fain’s rhetoric might have affected the vote.

Several unnamed Mack Trucks workers in Pennsylvania who have spent a decade or more with the company and spoke withCNBC ahead of vote pointed to the Big Three negotiations.

“In my opinion, the master contract is not horrid. It’s not a bad contract, but it’s nowhere near what we were expecting,” said a 12-year employee who planned to vote against the deal.

“When we were going in, we were following basically like the automakers,” added the worker. “They’ve changed some things for the better but, in my opinion, not enough.”

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