Ohio Battery Strikers Reject Second UAW-Negotiated Deal

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The strike at the Clarios battery plant in Holland, Ohio, is reportedly ongoing after workers rejected a deal struck between the company and negotiators from the United Auto Workers union. Roughly 550 employees represented by UAW Local 12 walked out on May 8th over changes to overtime eligibility and production incentives, with a select few picketing outside the factory entrance.

We last reported the strike after the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas decided to place a temporary restraining order on the workers to discourage picketing. But this does not appear to have weakened their resolve. With the previous five-year contract between Clarios and its employees having expired, workers don’t want to sign onto something they see as a step backwards.

Dave Green, the UAW's Region 2B director, confirmed to The Toledo Blade that a tentative agreement had been assembled over the weekend — noting that it then failed to meet the approval of the workforce.

From The Blade:

Kris Sherman, a Clarios spokesman for the U.S. and Canada, said the company was disappointed that employees did not ratify the agreement despite the UAW bargaining committee endorsing it.
“The tentative agreement offered wage increases, a modern, flexible work schedule, and a significant cash bonus,” Mr. Sherman said. “We are committed to continuing to operate the facility to support our customers and we are evaluating next steps.”

“The members have spoken,” Mr. Green told the outlet via text message. “I work for them and will do everything possible to get them an agreement they can be proud of. The UAW is a membership-driven organization and the leadership works for them. We expect the company to come back to the table.”

Though details on the matter are limited as the negotiations continue and answers about how things are progressing change depending upon you you ask. The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) has a political angle that often puts it at odds with establishment viewpoints. But it usually keeps close tabs on labor activities and claimed that the “UAW bureaucracy” had failed to support workers by agreeing to a pro-company contract. Based on claims from members, an estimated 75-80 percent of the plant’s workforce voted against it.

Individuals told WSWS that the new contract was virtually the same as the previously UAW-backed deal, which workers rejected by 98 percent on April 27th.

The proposal was for a three-year contract and included the previous 3 percent annual wage increase as the first one. However workers have claimed this does not keep pace with elevated inflation rates and changes in piece rates issued by Clarios which have resulted in as much as a $10 an hour pay cut for some workers. UAW officials reportedly attempted to focus on an increased signing bonus —a taxable $3,500 payment, up from $1,500 in the first agreement — as akin to the desired pay increase. But members did not appear to be interested.

Though the biggest issue has to be the changes in scheduling. Whereas the old contract had workers becoming eligible for time-and-a-half pay for anything over eight hours a day, the current proposals have straight extended to twelve hours a day. Meanwhile, Clarios is reportedly trying to pivot to schedules where employees work staggered shifts that will keep them right at the threshold with twelve-hour days that yield no overtime.

The UAW managed to limit the scheme to employees hired into the expanding TBS department, which utilizes new machinery (assembled by the UK-based TBS Engineering) and is supposed to serve as the future direction of the firm’s battery production lines. However, workers seem to think it’s just a matter of time before they’re all on the new lines anyway.

“Basically, nothing changed, except the signing bonus,” one worker told the WSWS. “If we signed this, they would basically rip out all the old machinery and build new lines, and all of us would be on the [updated] TBS schedule. It would take about six months, and the schedule would be introduced for the whole company. They also want all the new guys on the 12-hour schedule. But we’re fighting for the new guys. A lot of us have kids we want to come here to get jobs, and we are not going to screw them.”

Some workers also seem concerned at the president this contract would set for other automakers and suppliers. Contract negotiations are right around the corner for General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Stellantis.

“The union officials backed this contract, especially the big wig from UAW Region 2-B who tried to make this seem like a good deal. They need to get out of the way and let the rank and file decide,” said another union member from the plant. “The 2-2-3 [scheduling scheme] will affect the new hires and all the workers on the lines the company is expanding. By 2025, the whole plant could be under the TBS department. They must really think we are stupid to bring back this contract. The union tops are working against the workers. But we can see what’s coming.”

“I would say to our brothers and sisters at GM, Ford and Stellantis: Our fight is your fight. We all have to stand together. They are nothing without us. The whole industry rests on our shoulders, not theirs. If we stand together and say enough is enough to these guys, we can win what we need.”

[Image: Daniel J. Macy/Shutterstock]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 58 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on May 25, 2023

    "The whole industry rests on our shoulders"

    Except the part that doesn't.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic 3SpeedAutomatic on May 27, 2023

    Once in a while, government meddling helps; but with limited success.

    In the early 80's, Reagan imposed voluntary import restrains. Prior to this, Asian brands swore up and down that there was no profit assembling their cars in North America. Only a handful of these plants are bargaining, but forced them to break ground and build US assembly lines. The UAW attempted to organize the VW plant, but that fell through. And the Big Three lost market share as the years went by, but I hold B3 senior leadership responsible (Cimarron, Roger Smith, Chrysler-MB Merger of Equals, Ford purchase of Euro luxury brands with zero return, etc).

    The US had a significant lead in aerospace, but Boeing screwed that up as well (MAX fiasco, B787 quality control, extended B777X delays). To keep the US government off its back concerning imports, Airbus developed a final assembly plant in Alabama for its narrow body A320 jets. Based on Boeing's challenge to Delta's purchase of Bombardier jets, Airbus moved part of A220 final assembly to Alabama as well. Maybe the unions can approach the Alabama facility as well and claim a small victory.

  • Frank Drove past there last week, plant has a huge poster of a bronco on the outside. I was thinking "Is that where they build the new broncos?" I know they use to make the Edge and that other mundane SUV there but I believe both have been canned.
  • CanadaCraig Toyota saw this coming. So good for them for being courageous enough to say, "Wait a minute. Let's not rush into anything."
  • Rna65689660 As the previous owner of a Triumph, and current owner of a MINI, I say, LOL!
  • Yuda 1) EVs are garbage and a complete waste of time and money 2) Ford IS a business after all, cars and trucks ain't free, they take a lot of time and money to Actually make, manufacture, and build 3) SD trucks are actually useful and practical
  • Tane94 If there is market demand, build the vehicle. That's what Ford is doing. Kudos