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UAW strike spreads to Mack, could hamper production of Mack and Volvo trucks

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Matt Cole, Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ)  /  October 15, 2019

Six United Automotive Workers chapters representing more than 3,500 Mack Trucks employees at five of the company’s plants went on strike Saturday night to push for better pay, benefits and more in their next contract.

Mack brand President Martin Weissburg said in a statement that Volvo Group is surprised UAW decided to strike.

“We are surprised and disappointed that the UAW decided to strike, rather than to allow our employees to keep building trucks and engines while the parties continued to negotiate,” Weissburg said. “The positive working relationship between local UAW leadership and management at our facilities was clearly in evidence throughout the negotiations, and progress was being made.”

A press release from United Auto Workers states the workers are striking for wage increases, job security, cost-of-living adjustments, wage progression, skilled trades, shift premium, holiday schedules, work schedules, health and safety, seniority, pension, 401(k), healthcare and prescription drug coverage, overtime, subcontracting and temporary/supplemental workers.

“UAW members get up every day and put in long, hard hours of work from designing to building Mack trucks,” said Ray Curry, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the Heavy Truck Department. “UAW members carry on their shoulders the profits of Mack, and they are simply asking for dignity, fair pay and job protections.”

Workers are striking at the following Mack plants: Allentown, Pennsylvania; Middletown, Pennsylvania; Hagerstown, Maryland; Baltimore, Maryland; and Jacksonville, Florida.

The Mack brand is part of the Sweden's Volvo Group, which also includes Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA). Chris Heffner, manager of public relations for Mack Trucks, said that while no Volvo trucks are built at the five Mack facilities, the Hagerstown, Maryland, location supplies Volvo engines and transmissions to Volvo’s North River Valley Plant in Dublin, Virginia. Heffner added that if the strike continues, Volvo truck production would be affected in addition to Mack truck production.

“On the contrary, we’ve invested more than $400 million in our plants and logistics network over the last 10 years, and since 2015 have insourced work that has created more than 500 jobs in our U.S. factories,” Weissburg added. “We have significant new investments in both facilities and products on the way.”

The strike by Mack employees comes in the midst of a nearly month-long strike by General Motors employees that began Sept. 16 and is still ongoing.

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As Mack Trucks strike hits fifth day, keeping production in the Lehigh Valley emerges as key issue

Jon Harris, The Morning Call  /  October 16, 2019

This week, Mack Trucks’ 1 million-square-foot assembly plant in Lower Macungie Township sits quietly — a place that has been a truck manufacturing hub for nearly 44 years suddenly idled. The usually jam-packed parking lot is as dead as a vacant Kmart.

But many of the plant’s more than 2,000 workers are still filtering in nearby — not for work, but for four-hour shifts at high-trafficked outposts around the plant as part of the first strike to hit Mack in 35 years. There, United Auto Workers Local 677 members are equipped with signs, red shirts reading “We Are One” and boxes of doughnuts or pizza stacked upon folding tables or opened tailgates.

The workers revel in the occasional morale-boosting honk from a passing vehicle, including one at 2 p.m. Tuesday from a truck they surely built: a white Mack Anthem day cab.

From the picket line to the union hall: The UAW has listed more than 15 issues that remain unsettled in its discussions with Mack, negotiations that won’t continue until Monday. While a lengthy list of topics remain open, local union officials on Tuesday said their top concern is ensuring the proper commitments are in place to make sure the Lower Macungie plant — and the Lehigh Valley, in general — remains the place where all heavy-duty Macks for the North American market are assembled.

“There was a letter in our contract that says you can’t take our Class 8 truck out of Macungie, and that’s the letter we’re looking to keep," Kevin Fronheiser, the local’s shop chairman and a 20-year Mack employee, told The Morning Call. “Again, we want to make sure we’re building the truck here in the Lehigh Valley.”

Fronheiser said Mack has not said anything about moving production out of the Lehigh Valley, but the union is looking for protections that were included in previous contracts.

“We just want to cover it, though,” said Dave Durgin, a 31-year Mack employee and the local’s chairman of the office and engineering units. “We just want to make sure.”

In a statement over the weekend about the strike, which began at 11:59 p.m. Saturday and involves about 3,500 Mack employees across Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida, Mack President Martin Weissburg said the company has no plans to shutter any U.S. manufacturing operations even as it competes against products made in lower-cost countries.

“On the contrary, we’ve invested more than $400 million in our plants and logistics network over the last ten years, and since 2015 have insourced work that has created more than 500 jobs in our U.S. factories,” Weissburg said. “We have significant new investments in both facilities and products on the way.”

While the previous investments Weissburg mentioned include about $84 million that went into the Lower Macungie plant, it could be those projects “on the way” that are causing some of the concern. While Weissburg’s statement said Mack has no plans to close any U.S. plants, Fronheiser noted that he didn’t explicitly say that all heavy-duty truck production would stay in the Lehigh Valley.

And Mack’s parent company, the Sweden-based Volvo Group, has a history of shifting operations between its U.S. facilities.

For example, about two years after acquiring Mack, Volvo in 2002 closed the manufacturer’s Winnsboro, South Carolina plant, an operation that opened in 1987 and replaced the 60-year-old 5C plant in Allentown just a couple years after Mack’s last strike in 1984. With the South Carolina plant closed, Volvo moved Mack production that was done in South Carolina to its Volvo New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia.

That Mack highway model production continued at the Volvo New River Valley plant until 2009, when Volvo moved the work to the Lower Macungie plant. That move also corresponded with the relocation of Mack’s corporate headquarters from Allentown to the Greensboro, N.C., Volvo campus, which cost the Lehigh Valley hundreds of white-collar jobs but helped streamline certain functions between Mack and Volvo Trucks North America. Durgin mentioned Tuesday that his job was once in the Mack Boulevard headquarters before it was moved to the Mack Customer Center in Allentown and now the Lower Macungie plant.

A similar issue appears to have been raised during negotiations ahead of a three-year contract that was reached in October 2016, a deal that expired Oct. 1.

A Jan. 3, 2017, article on the UAW’s website stated that Mack wanted to delete a provision in the contract that required the company to get the union’s approval before it could open a new plant. An information request, the union says, revealed Mack was looking to eventually build a West Coast plant, something the union believed could threaten job security in Lower Macungie. In regards to this provision, Mack spokesman Christopher Heffner said the company prefers “not to discuss any provisions of our contract at this time.”

During a question-and-answer session in Allentown in August 2018, Weissburg said the Lower Macungie plant had been making impressive improvements and that Mack would continue to invest in the site as needed. When asked specifically about whether Mack could need another plant down the road, he responded, “It’s hard to forecast the future, but there’s ample room in the (Lehigh Valley Operations) factory right now.”

Another Mack facility does appear, however, to be in the works, though not necessarily one that will shift production from Lower Macungie.

Earlier this year, The Morning Call reported that Mack was advertising engineering positions in the Salem, Virginia, area, believed to be the spot where Mack will author its re-entrance into the medium-duty truck market. Volvo Group North America spokesman John Mies in February declined to talk about the project but noted it would not result in any shifting of production from Mack’s Lower Macungie plant, which focuses on Class 8 highway, construction and garbage trucks.

Still, Durgin said, the Virginia project did come up during negotiations.

“We know about it,” he said. “We’re not against it. We understand the company needs to keep making products and keep making money. We just want to have a part in that. But we know about it. We don’t have too many details on it yet.”

Also of note is an announcement in late June that Volvo will invest nearly $400 million over six years to upgrade its 1.6-million-square-foot New River Valley plant, a facility that employs more than 3,000 workers and produces all Volvo trucks sold in North America. The project, in which Volvo has said it will create 777 new jobs over the next six years, includes a new 350,000-square-foot building that will house truck cab welding operations and an expansion of the existing structure to improve the facility’s paint operations and production flow.

“NRV is painting some Mack cabs, so the enhancements to the plant’s paint operations will also benefit Mack,” Mies said in an email Tuesday.

More specifically, Mack purchases its sleeper cab from a third-party firm before the cab makes it way to Volvo’s New River Valley plant to be painted.

The cab is then shipped more than 400 miles from New River Valley — a plant where Mack highway models were once produced — to the Lower Macungie plant, where assembly occurs.

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hitting us hard her in upstate ny… we run a heavy towin and body shop. scraping the bottom to find parts to fix collisions on brand new GM's and as of today towing in heavy trucks ,Macks  AND Volvos, we cannot get parts to fix

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I'll bet that soon Ford and Mopar will follow, be a boon for the Asians and Germans.

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Wise up union brothers. Make your wishes known. But they know how to move or close shop and they can and will if necessary. Let history be your guide. You will be out of a job and your upper union bosses not the reps will get their cut.:twothumbsup:

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I wondered what was happening with the new medium-duty truck. There must something going on with it that the UAW wants in on. This tells me that Volvo is spending money on Mack. West coast plant?  UD based Mack medium-duty?  But still this is dumb strike by the UAW.

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2 hours ago, TS7 said:

I wondered what was happening with the new medium-duty truck. There must something going on with it that the UAW wants in on. This tells me that Volvo is spending money on Mack. West coast plant?  UD based Mack medium-duty?  But still this is dumb strike by the UAW.

Look what GM just agreed to  with their workers. I see a lot more going out to get their piece of the pie.

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I do not know about Mack UAW workers pay, but UAW GM, Ford and FCA workers are very well paid. Yet when GM strike started, one week later striking UAW members were saying they could not pay there bills and might lose there homes. Pure greed in the UAW from the top down. I live in SE Michigan and do not feel sorry for any Big 3 worker blue or white collar.

Edited by TS7
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Volvo should pull the operation and move it back overseas since Sweden is only 71% unionized labor.....ummm…….oh, wait? 

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Mack doesn't seem to be able to push into the west coast market from PA. Maybe a west coast plant would be a good idea. Can't profess to be an expert on that. They retreated from there once. Texas might be a good option. Just ask Peterbuilt. Buckner seems to sell Macks well. You would think Volvo would go west before Mack.

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Tried getting an fan hub kit for GU last week. None to be had anywhere. We were told Mid Nov! Pretty nice when ya buy something and you can't get shit to fix it! Try with Holding a truck payment and see how it goes!!!!!! The strike probably ain't helping this situation either! 

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With Strike Set to End, Mack Workers Will Return to Softening Market

Jon Harris, The Morning Call  /  October 25, 2019

With the Mack Trucks strike slated to end, a recent report from Swedish parent company Volvo Group provides a look at the heavy-duty truck market that 3,500 workers will return to next week.

First, where the market has been: The company delivered almost 50,500 trucks in North America through the first nine months of the year, up 27% from a year earlier as its Mack and Volvo Trucks brands worked through a hefty order backlog.

Next, where it’s going: Volvo took in just shy of 18,000 orders in North America during the same time period, a 73% drop from the year-ago period as the cyclical market started to slow and dealer inventory remained high.

“We see the anticipated correction coming in our main markets,” Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt told analysts Oct. 18, six days before Mack and the United Auto Workers announced they had reached a tentative agreement.

So the Mack strike, which started at 11:59 p.m. Oct. 12 and involved more than 3,500 employees across Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida, came at a time when truck manufacturers already were adjusting production to meet reduced demand in the market. For example, even before the strike, Mack was planning to put its Lower Macungie Township assembly plant, which employs about 2,400, on temporary layoff for two weeks during the fourth quarter. Not long after, Daimler Trucks North America disclosed it was cutting about 900 workers across two U.S. plants as the market softened.

In its third-quarter report, released Oct. 18, Volvo mentioned possible negative financial consequences if the Mack strike continue for “an extended period of time.” As it is, the strike this week temporarily idled Volvo Trucks’ massive assembly plant in Virginia, which has 3,000 workers, because the facility is not receiving engines and transmissions from Mack’s Hagerstown, Md., powertrain plant.

Still, the strike over the past couple of weeks likely hurt Volvo much less than if it had occurred six months ago when the market was on fire and manufacturers were trying to keep up with demand, noted Steve Tam, vice president of ACT Research. UAW’s previous three-year contract with Mack expired Oct. 1, after which the two sides continued negotiating until an extension agreement expired Oct. 12.

“With respect to the timing of the strike, it’s considerably less painful now given the state of the industry and manufacturers needing to reduce production,” he said.

How much that affected UAW’s leverage in negotiations is unclear. Mack and UAW declined to disclose details of the tentative agreement until union members were fully briefed.

Comments from Lundstedt on Oct. 18 indicated Volvo was ready to hold its ground in a dispute that centered on what the union called job security. UAW Local 677 leaders were looking for Mack to commit to keeping all heavy-duty truck assembly for the North American market in the Lehigh Valley — as is the case today — while Volvo was working toward a sustainable agreement that could guarantee the business’ future as it grapples with competitors that build trucks in Mexico.

UAW Local 677 expects a staggered ramp up starting Oct. 28, followed by getting the full system up and running by the middle to end of next week.

With the softening market, which came after about two years of strong demand, Mack spokesman Christopher Heffner would not say whether additional production adjustments would be needed, noting that Mack preferred not to discuss production plans.

For 2019, Volvo is forecasting retail sales in North America of 340,000 heavy-duty trucks, which it expects to drop in 2020 to a more normal level of 240,000 vehicles.

ACT Research, Tam said, sees the market reaching 332,000 in sales this year, followed by a 23% drop next year to 255,500.

“Even without the strike, the industry was looking at reduced production rates in the fourth quarter,” he said.

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"With Strike Set to End, Mack Workers Will Return to Softening Market"

Geez, it's only been a couple of weeks and they have no significant sales anyway. They make it out as though it's been months.

 

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So the UAW went on strike to keep Mack (Volvo) from selling Mack trucks built in Australia here? I do not see Volvo spending the money to build a new plant to build Mack trucks some place else with there sales the way they are. What did this strike gain the UAW?  In a month or so Mack Australia will run out of parts for two weeks? 

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14 hours ago, TS7 said:

So the UAW went on strike to keep Mack (Volvo) from selling Mack trucks built in Australia here?

Care to elaborate on This..????

The Australian Market (& Factory capacity) is Minuscule compared to North America. The small number of excess trucks from Australia would hardly be Threat..!!!

Or Am I missing Something???

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   Just curious, Hagerstown is now Volvo Powertrain but the workers are Mack employees and UAW members? What operations are in Jacksonville, FL?  

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13 minutes ago, fjh said:

Tech That situation you describe is Common! Blame everyone else, Is rampant from the top down A perfect example was the fuel line fiasco of the early 2000's Having everyone do a fuel line installation coarse to pass the blame on to the installer ,who had  learn how to  install  faulty dollar store fuel lines!  implemented  in an attempt to save money by the manufacturer !   Unfortunately the dealers Are learning from the BEST Buck Passers ever!  Ducking  Dodging and weaving !

Hahaha, yes, the fuel line video series and service bulletins to tell us how we must be bending #3 line to get it around the turbo protrusion plus not using proper torque tooling and thus causing all the fiery explosions! 

Volvo told me “fast stamp” installation at the factory caused the graphite lube to hydro-lock and make the MP cups/injectors not seal properly. They also said the dealership techs were the cause of much of the post-factory replacement cup failures due to mis-assembly. 

Recall the vision LCD dash boards that would fade to black if the sun shined on them and start working again after cool down. We’d replace them, then get it kicked back and have to fight tooth an nail to then finally get paid as “policy warranty”. Volvo denied any engineering flaw because the failed returns worked fine in the air conditioned, shaded, test facility. 

I’d say long standing tradition. 

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13 hours ago, bulldogboy said:

   Just curious, Hagerstown is now Volvo Powertrain but the workers are Mack employees and UAW members? What operations are in Jacksonville, FL?  

They are Volvo employees, not Mack brand employees. 

https://www.volvogroup.com/en-en/about-us/organization/our-global-presence/hagerstown.html

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2 hours ago, TS7 said:

I know there not going to bring Mack's from Australia. 

It would be something to see some LHD Mack Australia models sold here.

I'm under the Impression that the Proposed new Medium Duty for North America will/should be very similar to our "Metroliner".... But am happy to be corrected......

https://www.macktrucks.com.au/trucks/metro-liner/

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I vaguely recall that they tried, however briefly, selling a version of the Metro-Liner in the US. But due to the ISL powerplant and an abysmal marketing plan, it immediately crashed.

I doubt they’re bringing over the Metro-Liner. I’m more thinking a Renault or Nissan, shipped over as a KD (knocked-down) kit and assembled in Roanoke (Virginia). They may be eyeballing Paccar’s success with the LF in the US.

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19 hours ago, Mack Technician said:

Hahaha, yes, the fuel line video series and service bulletins to tell us how we must be bending #3 line to get it around the turbo protrusion plus not using proper torque tooling and thus causing all the fiery explosions! 

Volvo told me “fast stamp” installation at the factory caused the graphite lube to hydro-lock and make the MP cups/injectors not seal properly. They also said the dealership techs were the cause of much of the post-factory replacement cup failures due to mis-assembly. 

Recall the vision LCD dash boards that would fade to black if the sun shined on them and start working again after cool down. We’d replace them, then get it kicked back and have to fight tooth an nail to then finally get paid as “policy warranty”. Volvo denied any engineering flaw because the failed returns worked fine in the air conditioned, shaded, test facility. 

I’d say long standing tradition. 

Of course, Mack-branded Volvo trucks have already rolled off the line in New River Valley, Virginia.

When Volvo closed the Mack plant in Winnsboro, South Carolina in 2002, Mack brand on-highway production was relocated to New River Valley, Virginia until 2008 (the former White Motor plant).

Today, South Carolina and Alabama are hot manufacturing locations.

 

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