BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — A potential strike is looming.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) and the “Big Three” Detroit automakers have just over 48 hours to reach a new deal, and the Belvidere Assembly Plant could play a big part in the talks.
There are now talks about reopening the plant after it was idled back in February. Matt Frantzen, president of UAW Local 1268, said that it comes down to need product.
He added that the potential strike is something that these workers have never seen before.
“As far as our need? Our need is product,” Frantzen said.
The future of the Belvidere Assembly Plant is up in the air as the strike deadline gets closer. It is playing a large role in negotitations.
“The company is playing a bargaining chip. You know, you’ve got a big assembly plant, you know what, better take that to the negotiating table and say, ‘hey, what’s the union willing to give up to put product in Belvidere,'” Frantzen said.
Demands across the country include an increase in pay and protections against job losses and plant closings, but the needs in Belvidere extend further than the rest. Frantzen said that it is not just about getting product there. It has got to be the right one.
“The way I look at it, I want all those people home, and to get all those people home, we need a vehicle and a battery,” he said. “And at that point, we’d be able to, we should be able to, return everybody and then hire, which would be great for the area.”
Thousands of people were left without a job when the plant was idled. Stellantis offered them packages and grow-ins. Some transferred to other facilities, while others took the buyout deal.
“It almost felt like they were forced into a retirement, a buyout or something like that where if we end up laying in product here, you know, every one of those guys, most of those guys, would have come back,” Frantzen said. “We lost a ton of talent. That’ll be tough to get back.”
As the UAW looks for a change in policies, workers in Belvidere hope for the plant to be rebooted.
“We’ve got a reputation here that we’ve built the best cars. Our attendance, our quality, our throughput, we hit on every mark. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have a product. You look at our plant, our plant isn’t landlocked. We have land available so if they want to expand,” Frantzen said. “So, we were number one. Look what number one got us.”
The deadline for an agreement is 11:59 p.m. Thursday.