Jeep maker Stellandis NV is seeking the unilateral right to sell its Auburn Hills headquarters and technology center, one of 18 facilities it has proposed to sell or close as part of its latest offer to the United Auto Workers. Information.
The sale of the Atlantic carmaker’s North American headquarters, which bears Chrysler’s Pentastar logo, does not mean the automaker is abandoning Auburn Hills, according to a source who requested anonymity without permission to speak publicly on the topic. Flexibility and options for the future of the 500-acre campus, which includes laboratories, engineering facilities and design studios in a hybrid workspace. For example, it may sell the property and lease it back.
The proposal was included in Stellandis’ fourth counteroffer to the union Thursday evening, which had earlier announced strikes at the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator plants in Toledo, Ohio, Ford Motor Co.’s Bronco and Ranger plants in Wayne and General Motors Co. Wentzville midsize pickup and commercial van plant outside St. Louis.
The UAW represents salaried employees at the Auburn Hills headquarters. As a result, the union must agree to a proposal that would allow Stellandis to sell the site that previously served as Chrysler LLC’s world headquarters.
Late Monday, Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel said: “We are proud to be home to Stellandis North America headquarters. As Stellandis is the largest employer in our thriving community, we recognize the importance of paying attention to the latest reports surrounding the closing of 18 U.S. facilities. To date, Stellandis is the largest employer in our city. We have not received any indication or information that it intends to close its headquarters.”
Mark Stewart, chief operating officer of Stellantis in North America, said Saturday that the selected sites are mostly Mopar aftermarket parts distribution centers that the company wants to modernize but will not result in job cuts. The company has 20 centers in the United States, and 10 are included in the list of 18 sites.
Stewart also mentioned unused spaces. According to sources, that includes the Trenton Engine Complex, which employs more than 600 hourly workers and whose north building is already idle and used for storage.
Additionally, Tipton Transmission of Indiana, 300 man-hours manufacture nine-speed transmissions that are also built at the Indiana Transmission plant in nearby Kokomo. Workers can get transferred.
Stellandis could also close the dormant Mount Elliott Tool & Die facility in Detroit.
Also on that list was the defunct Jeep Cherokee plant in Belvidere, Illinois. In Stewart Stellandis’ offer, he said there is an unspecified “solution” to the idled Cherokee plant if an agreement is reached before the previous contract with the UAW expires a minute before midnight Thursday. Sources said the proposal is to use the site as a large Mopar distribution center.
The UAW rejected that offer before the deadline and was faced with its own offer, which Stewart said was not affordable. The union and Stellandis resumed talks on Monday after the UAW met with Ford and GM over the weekend.
“The discussion was constructive and focused on where we could find common ground to reach an agreement that would provide a bridge to the future,” according to Stellandis’ statement. “Together with the UAW, we have the opportunity to create a framework in this agreement that will allow the company to remain competitive during this historic transition and bring our employees on board on this journey. This includes finding a solution for Belvidere. This commitment has been made from the beginning and we look forward to continuing with the UAW.”
The 10 Mopar parts distribution centers include three in Michigan: Center Line, Marysville and Warren. Others are Atlanta PDC, Boston PDC, Chicago PDC, Milwaukee PDC, New York PDC, Orlando PDC and Sherwood PDC. The company may open new centers in Fishkill, New York and Macon, Georgia.
“These are facilities that have been idle for a long time, or parts distribution centers — PDCs — but are old that we need to modernize, or maybe in the wrong location,” Stewart said during a roundtable. “Now we’re looking at our supply chain and the ability to get things to our customers faster and a better cost structure from a transportation standpoint, and we need to invest in Mopar, and in many cases, it doesn’t. It makes sense to make those investments where they are.”
CNBC Details of 18 facilities were first reported.
In May 2021, Stellandis announced a more flexible workplace model that it called “a new era of agility” for the 15,000 salaried employees assigned to work at its Auburn Hills campus at the time. It estimates that on average, 70% of an employee’s time is spent working remotely and the remaining time is spent in the office. Following that move, Stewart said it will reevaluate its real estate portfolio, including leasing space at the headquarters.
“Chrysler Technology Center will continue to be our North American headquarters and technology center for North America,” the company said at the time.
Michigan Economic Development Corp. Spokesman Otie McKinley declined to comment on ongoing negotiations, but said Michigan and Stellantis are “similar to each other.”
An Oakland County spokeswoman declined to comment on the reports.
Stellandis’ Thursday offer to the union included 21% overall wage increases (19.5% excluded), a four-year advance to top pay, a $20-an-hour starting wage for support workers and $1 billion in additional pension benefits for employees and retirees.
Following this weekend’s negotiations, UAW President Shawn Fine told NPR Monday morning that the union still has a long way to go before reaching tentative agreements and ending strikes.
“We made full offers to all three companies before the strike deadline and we had minimal conversations over the weekend,” he said. “The ball is still in their court, so we’re going to keep moving as we have and see how things progress.”
read more: UAW, Detroit three automakers stand on key issues
The union has threatened to add more sites based on how talks progress with its so-called “stand-up strike” strategy, though Fine did not say whether that would happen soon. He noted that the union presented its members’ demands, including economic plans, to the automakers during the week of July 30.
“Eight weeks ago we started negotiating with the companies from day one and we said … if they expect to wait until the last minute and start negotiating, they will be disappointed. Because we expected to meet the demands of our members and take care of the business early, so we are in this position. We won’t be,” he said. “The companies chose not to, so they waited until last week to really start talking, so we have a long way to go, and if the company doesn’t respect our workers’ demands, we will take action.”
As a result of the strike, Ford temporarily laid off the remaining 600 workers at its Michigan assembly plant on Friday as the union walked out only assembly and paint shop workers. General Motors Co. said the Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas, which makes the Chevrolet Malibu sedan and Cadillac XT4 SUV, may be out of business this week as a result of a strike in Wentzville. Workers ineligible for unemployment will receive the same $500 per week as striking UAW members.
“That’s the choice the companies made,” Fine said of the layoffs. “Companies don’t have to fire these workers. It’s a choice. They’re trying to intimidate workers, but we’ll take care of our workers no matter what we do.”
Fine said the 20% collective wage increases offered by automakers are “not enough” after the union sacrificed to save companies during the Great Recession and bankruptcies. The UAW originally demanded 40% non-inclusive (46% combined) wage increases, which have since dropped to 36%.
Fein said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that de-tiering remains one of the key issues fraught with bipartisan agreement. While the UAW wants it to take only 90 days, the companies have recommended shortening the time frame to reach higher wages to four years.
The White House on Sunday said President Joe Biden’s top aides are helping Detroit secure a deal.
“This war is not about the president,” Fine said on MSNBC. “This is not about the former president or any other person. This struggle is about workers standing up for economic and social justice and getting their fair share because they are left behind.”
The striking auto workers themselves were split with the help of the Biden administration.
“It’s no problem at all,” said Phil Lozier, 52, of Canton, a UAW representative for members at the Ford Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne. “Biden is pro-labor. We’re good.”
But Lumengo McGhee, 51, of Macomb, an 11-year worker at the metal line, says employed members should negotiate the contract, not outsiders.
“They don’t come here,” she said. “They’re not working all day on those concrete floors. They’re not getting paid what we’re paying and trying to pay their bills.”
Staff writer Kalia Hall contributed.
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