When most of us think about organizing, we often think of going into non-union shops and organizing workers to join the UAW. While that is true, it can also mean organizing our existing union members, and getting them active in our collective fight. For Big Three workers and members of Local 230 going into bargaining this year, we knew that we needed a significant wage increase, a cost-of-living allowance (COLA), the end to an abusive tiered wage system, and the end of the abusive system that kept supplemental employees (temporary workers) working on a temporary status with no real rights and no hire date in sight.
Our contract campaign was huge in the months and weeks leading up to the strike. At the national level, UAW President Shawn Fain & his team were great at keeping members up to date through Facebook Live and news outlets. At the local level, we were hard at work building unity and coordination. Some of the ways we showed solidarity included what we called a Red-Out – wearing only red shirts in solidarity. Another way was organizing members to not work any voluntary overtime in the days leading up to Local 230 being called on to walk off the job. Both of these methods showed management that we were no longer divided and that we weren’t going down without a fight.
On September 15 at 12:00 am, the Big Three walked off the job. The following week, all the PDCs across Stellantis and GM were called to walk off their jobs, and thus, Local 230 was out on strike, along with Locals 6645, 2162, and 492. Our Local 230 President Jesse Ramirez walked out side by side with approximately 55 first shift Local 230 members. Our message was clear: “No deals, No wheels.”
In the following weeks, we organized rallies on the picket lines. These rallies were key for keeping members’ morale up, building a strong sense of camaraderie, and relieving the stress of the strike. In addition to social media and local news coverage, the rallies were extremely sharp tools used to gain public support and to keep our fight and demands as pervasive as possible. Many supporters came out and walked the line, including Teamsters, SAG-AFTRA, Carpenters Union, Machinist Union, as well as State Senators, Assembly Members, and members of the United States Congress.
Our efforts would soon pay off: On October 28th the strike was declared over, and members returned to work the following Monday. The contract was ratified on November 20th, 2023. Workers emerged victorious knowing we, the UAW, had won.
Joel Benefield is a member of UAW Local 230 in Ontario, CA. The local represents workers at the Stellantis Parts Distribution Center in Los Angeles.