A labor fight in Marysville, Michigan that included a one-week strike at a multibillion-dollar global supplier to Stellantis ended with an agreement Friday to recognize UAW representation.
What was once a union shop under Auburn Hills-based Fiat Chrysler Automobiles partnership will continue to be a union shop as now-Stellantis transitions out of the operation, turning it over completely to ZF control.
Behind the scenes, the situation is a little complicated.
ZF Marysville has been staffed by UAW Stellantis workers under a UAW contract. During the 2019 contract negotiations, Stellantis agreed to transfer ZF Marysville workers to other Stellantis locations and have ZF staff the plant with ZF employees, the UAW explained in its news release.
That transition has not been completed. The 350 workers immediately impacted by the UAW deal are ZF employees exclusively. Hundreds of UAW Stellantis employees at ZF now will be transferring to other Stellantis locations.
The German car parts maker and its ZF employees, who often refer to ZF Marysville as the Marysville Axle Plant, dealt with a strike for one week that began Sept. 9 and then evolved into negotiations.
340 workers impacted
A majority of the workers signed up to join the union, but ZF did not accept the voluntary majority of 340 ZF employees who asked to join the union, the UAW said in a news release on Saturday.
"These hardworking ZF Marysville workers simply want what other employees at that plant have had," James Harris, Region 1 UAW Director, said in the release. "ZF Marysville workers made it clear that they wanted the same voice at the table to bargain for their wages and benefits. They stood up to form their union and ultimately succeeded."
Harris said that following the strike for recognition, ZF workers returned to work and the company subsequently agreed to the voluntary recognition process, which resulted in a majority of ZF workers opting to form a union.
"We are grateful to the community and families that supported ZF Marysville workers through this strike," Frank Stuglin, UAW secretary-treasurer and director of the UAW Competitive Shop/Independents, Parts and Suppliers Department, said in the news release. "Ultimately, the ZF workers' sacrifice will benefit UAW members and families at ZF Marysville and the Marysville community for decades to come."
$6 billion contract win
In July, ZF announced a nearly $6 billion axle contract for the Marysville facility, which would supply beam axles and axle drives for pickup trucks until 2027. It did not specify which pickup truck models.
While ZF supplies parts to various automakers, the supplier is a key resource for Stellantis.
"This contract signifies a bright future for our plant, employees and community," Wolfgang Moenig, vice president, product line axle drives North America, ZF Group, said in a news release in July. "We are committed to growing and developing business and products over time ... delivering high-quality systems to the driving public."
Larry Miner, plant manager in Marysville, said at the time, "Our dedicated team has worked tirelessly to secure a strong future for this facility and its employees."
The plant at 2900 Busha Highway in Marysville primarily produces axle drive components for major North American automotive manufacturers. ZF had $33.4 billion in global sales in 2020.
Crossing the picket line
In September, the UAW sent a news release saying ZF employees at the plant wanted to join the UAW but current UAW Stellantis members were moving to other locations.
The strike was complicated by the fact that the current labor contract included a no-strike clause that required UAW members to cross the picket line of fellow workers fighting for their right to bargain.
The UAW said a majority of the ZF workers signed up for the union and ZF refused to accept voluntary recognition.
"It is unconscionable that the company would choose to put workers through delay tactics and efforts to avoid the union when a majority of their employees have agreed to it," James Harris, UAW Region 1 director, said in a statement. "ZF must cease these union-busting tactics and honor their workforces' wishes by recognizing the employees' right to bargain at this site which has been a union shop."
ZF has consistently denied this portrayal of events.
"As we have over the past several months, ZF will continue to engage in discussions with the UAW on a fair process that allows employees to decide whether they wish to have the UAW represent them," the company said in a statement at the time.
Harris, who helped coordinate this negotiation, assumed his role as regional director on Aug. 26 — replacing Stuglin, a welder repairman by trade.
Harris has a long association with Chrysler and Fiat Chrysler and now Stellantis. He played a key role in the battle to keep the Chrysler Sterling Heights Assembly Plant open in 2009 after bankruptcy.
His latest effort at ZF will net measurable results for the UAW. This latest addition of 350 ZF members is actually a minimum growth as Stellantis employees relocate and new ZF employees get hired.©2021 www.freep.com. Visit at freep.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.