September 20, 2023

Stellantis says it may temporarily lay off 300 workers at Kokomo parts plants due to UAW strike

Article origination IPB News
If plants shut down due to the strike, workers get temporarily laid off. They cannot get unemployment if the company reports strikes as the layoff's cause to the state, rather than reporting the cause as a part shortage or other production issue.  - Adam Yahya Rayes/IPB News

If plants shut down due to the strike, workers get temporarily laid off. They cannot get unemployment if the company reports strikes as the layoff's cause to the state, rather than reporting the cause as a part shortage or other production issue.

Adam Yahya Rayes/IPB News

Chrysler-parent Stellantis said it may soon temporarily lay off 300 workers across two plants in Kokomo.

In a statement Wednesday, the company said the anticipated layoffs are due to the United Auto Workers' "targeted" strike at an assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio.

As of Wednesday's statement, only two of Stellantis' five Indiana plants are expected to be affected by the "potential" layoffs: the Kokomo Transmission Plant, which has about 2,000 workers, and the Kokomo Casting Plant, which has more than 1,000 workers. Many of the parts they produce are used to make Jeeps in the Toledo assembly plant.

The company has another two transmission plants and an engine plant in the Kokomo area. Those plants have more than 3,000 workers combined.

While that assembly plant is on strike, Stellantis said it's facing "storage constraints." So, the company may want to reduce production in Kokomo to avoid making parts with nowhere to go.

The company said it already temporarily laid off 68 workers at a parts plant in Ohio for that reason. It's not clear when the Kokomo layoffs might actually happen, because the company only said it "anticipates" taking that action.

In interviews, local union leaders said they expected something like this to happen as the UAW announced it would strike at GM, Ford and Stellantis simultaneously. But in a new strategy, only certain plants would stop working.

Only three assembly plants have gone on strike since the union's contract deadline passed last Thursday: part of Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, as well as all workers at Stellantis' Toledo Assembly Complex in Ohio and General Motors Wentzville Assembly in Missouri.

READ MORE: Indiana UAW workers could feel impacts of strikes, even if they're not on the picket lines

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The union said it will announce a second wave of strikes Friday morning which will begin later that day unless the companies make "substantial progress" with new contract proposals.

Ford and General Motors already announced temporary layoffs shortly after the first wave of strikes began. None of the affected workers are in Indiana yet.

In a statement, UAW International President Shawn Fain called Ford and GM's announced layoffs a tactic “to put the squeeze on our members to settle for less.” He added that the strategy "won't work."

“The UAW will make sure any worker laid off in the Big Three’s latest attack will not go without an income,” he said in the statement.

How the companies will label the cause of any layoffs in official government filings is an open question. Workers won't be allowed to get unemployment benefits if the companies list the strike as a primary cause of the layoffs instead of distribution issues or anything like that.

Local UAW leaders said they believe the union can ensure workers get access to unemployment by appealing any company attempts to say the strikes caused layoffs.

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story said two Kokomo plants are expected to be affected by "potential" layoffs. For the purpose of clarity, more information about the affected plants has been added.

Adam is our labor and employment reporter. Contact him at arayes@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.

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