Volvo Trucks plans to restart their southwestern Virginia factory even as some staff are on strike. Spokesperson John Mies did not disclose how many American Auto Workers Federation had entered the factory near Virginia. But he said in an email that the factory’s assembly line would take several days to resume operation.

The factory has 2,900 UAW workers. Union members of the heavy-duty truck assembly plant rejected three interim contract agreements reached with local union negotiators. The most recent rejection was on Friday. They initially went on strike in April.

UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg said about 10 workers crossed the line on Monday morning, in addition to a “few” union workers who had previously worked. He said he did not have exact figures. Rothenberg said that in any strike, a small number of workers would pass through the picket.

Workers will vote again on the third agreement Wednesday. “Our final offer is on the table,” Mies said in an email Monday. The unmanageable strikers could signify that workers feel more heartened because employers have difficulty finding skilled workers.

There’s less fear of never finding another job, and that does mean that the gamble for the membership is not as severe,” said Arthur Wheaton, a labor expert who teaches at Cornell University’s Worker Institute.

While workers may not find a job quite as good as the one they have at Volvo in southwestern Virginia, they could be thinking: “‘If they fire us or replace us, how many people have the skillset to build these heavy trucks? There’s not a lot of us around. And we think you’re gonna have to pay us.’”

Volvo may risk hiring regular employees to replace strikers because new employees may have different skill levels. Volvo said it would implement the terms of the third agreement and reached local union leaders on July 1. Returning employees would get the agreement’s wages and benefits.

Kristin Dziczek, senior vice president at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank, said the NLRB under President Joe Biden is more likely to favour a union complaint than the board under former President Donald Trump. “The workers really do have more power than they would have had even a year ago,” she said. “There are lots of jobs. And they’ve got a president and NLRB that will back them.”

The previous contract, reached in 2016, was to expire in mid-March. Negotiations began in February. Workers went on strike from April 17 to 30 and returned to work as they voted on the first agreement. But members rejected that offer in May.

The UAW has said previously that workers had concerns about healthcare, wages, health and safety issues, working conditions, plant shift operations, contractual time off and wage progression.

Source: US News