Home » The UAW Strike Hits Three Plants Hard, But They Could Still Hit Even Harder

The UAW Strike Hits Three Plants Hard, But They Could Still Hit Even Harder

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Well, folks, the United Auto Workers went and did the thing they said they were going to do. One plant from each of the Big Three is now on strike, and more could follow if the automakers don’t come back to the table with terms the union finds more amenable. Sound like a threat? That’s exactly the point.

Today’s morning roundup looks at the fallout from the strike from a few angles. Let’s get right down to it.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Welcome To The Stand Up Strike

Unable to reach a deal with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis at the stroke of midnight, the UAW has ordered a historic “stand up strike” at three different plants—historic because it’s the first time all of the automakers have been hit by this, ever.

Here’s how this works: UAW workers at those three plants are no longer working, full-stop. The rest of the American auto industry is still business as usual. But over time, more plants—more locals, in union parlance–could be called to join the strike. You’d imagine you’d be have to be pretty tactical in the three plants you pick for this, and the UAW truly did that:

  • GM Wentzville assembly in Missouri (Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon)
  • Stellantis Toledo assembly in Ohio (Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator)
  • Ford Michigan assembly plant and paint (Ford Bronco and Ranger)

That’s where we’re at now. And all of those are important, volume-selling trucks and SUVs, but not the most important, most volume-selling trucks and SUVs. Not yet. It’s basically Shawn Fain saying, “Sure is a nice F-150 factory you got there. Would be a shame if something… happened to it, huh?”

The Toledo strike in particular feels like a very calculated middle finger to Stellantis, where labor relations are said to be the poorest and with workers drawing particular ire at the astounding $26 million compensation of CEO Carlos Tavares. That strike hits Jeep’s historic hometown and its most iconic current model—not to mention a profitable, popular vehicle. That one feels personal.

What does this mean for consumers? At the moment, probably nothing. But the longer these strikes go on—not to mention if they grow—the flow of those models to dealers will run out, leaving buyers with another supply crisis and higher prices, while guys like Stellantis CEO Tavares stand out on the freeway with their empty pockets turned out trying to hitch a ride to a bus stop in Chicago. OK, maybe not the last one. But the impact won’t be immediate, but the longer this takes, the more it will hurt the automakers’ bottom lines.

What Does The Union Want?

Shawn Fain Uaw
Photo: UAW

From the New York Times‘ Dealbook, here’s a quick refresher on what the union is after:

  • “A 40 percent pay raise over four years, which would bring wages for many full-time workers to roughly $32 per hour.
  • Reinstate cost-of-living adjustments, which have become a central plank in contract negotiations amid high inflation.
  • A four-day workweek, a demand that’s grown in popularity since the pandemic scrambled workplace culture.”

I’d add that the four-day workweek is a tactical move that would likely result in more auto workers being hired, and thus a bigger union. It needs that because membership has been declining for decades now.


The union also wants an end to the hated tiered employment system that stratifies worker pay based on experience. As a quick refresher, the UAW is asking for a number of benefits they sacrificed to help keep their employers afloat during the Great Recession, and in recent years union leadership was too busy being corrupt and going to prison for corruption to fight for these things. Now, they have a guy up top who quotes Malcolm X on his social media channels.

Moreover, they’re fighting for their futures—union representation and commensurate pay at the EV battery plants (which are often joint ventures) to ensure that the likely electric auto industry of tomorrow comes with the fair pay and good jobs it once did.

Here’s Why That’s Bad News For Joe Biden

President Biden Gmc Hummer Ev 001
Photo: White House

President Joe Biden has called himself the “most pro-union president in history” but also the biggest environmental champion America’s had in decades. (Feel free to disagree with me here, as is your right, but: I have my issues with how the EV tax credit scheme turned out, but I do think this administration has done an impressive job with green investments.)

The thing is, the Washington Post has the smart take about how those two things may be at odds right now—and it all comes down to the battery plant thing above. After all, none of the tax incentives around that are tied to whether the plants are union or not. And Biden’s relationship with the UAW is considerably frostier than you’d imagine:

Biden’s push to help the auto industry transition to clean energy technologies has become a key sticking point for autoworkers, who fear the shift to electric vehicles will mean fewer jobs and lower pay. The UAW — which has pointedly withheld an endorsement of Biden’s reelection — has specifically chided the administration for facilitating billions of dollars in tax incentives and loans for automakers without requiring them to share the benefits with union laborers.

Fain’s harsh comments about Biden’s approach to the EV transition earlier this year created a sense of tension with the White House, which did not know the upstart union leader well before his March election, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Still, Biden invited Fain for a half-hour meeting in the Oval Office this summer and relations have improved in recent months, the official said.

Biden, who sought unsuccessfully to include certain pro-union provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, has publicly urged the carmakers and electric battery companies to hire union workers and pay them a fair wage.

“We’re going to transition to an electric vehicle future made in America — and it will protect and expand good union jobs,” Biden wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday.

As that story notes, unlike the railway strikes last year (which ended with real criticism of Biden on the labor side) it’s not clear how much the president will be able to intercede this time. And he he’s come off vaguely neutral so far; Biden “has not publicly endorsed the UAW’s list of specific demands or criticized the auto companies’ offers,” the Post said.


Which side are you on, boy?

The Wider Economic Effects Of A UAW Strike

2023 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon
Photo: Jeep

Will America be sent into a recession if our supply of Wranglers runs out? Unlikely. And to be clear, I don’t think this will turn into some protracted, war-of-attrition long-term shutdown like the Hollywood strikes. Different product, different issues at stake (mostly) in the auto industry, and it’s in nobody’s best interest to drag this out forever.

Here’s the New York Times again, gaming out the possible impacts of this action:

According to an August report from the Anderson Economic Group, a 10-day strike against all three automakers would result in total economic losses of $5.6 billion. Around $3.5 billion of that would result from lost wages and production, with the remaining $2.1 billion borne by consumers, who wouldn’t be able to get necessary repairs and replacement parts, and by dealers and their employees.

Mr. Zandi said a six-week strike would have a “measurable but ultimately modest” effect on overall gross domestic product, perhaps a decline of two- or three-tenths of a percentage point. But he said damage would start to mount, given economic headwinds like rising interest rates, the return of student-loan repayments and a potential government shutdown in October.

If the strike lasted through the end of the year, Mr. Zandi said, “that would be enough to push this economy close to the edge of a recession, given everything else that’s going on.”

A 40-day strike against General Motors in 2019 had limited economic effects. One key difference this time is inventories. Total domestic car inventories, which includes new and used cars, have increased from a record low in February 2022 but are less than a quarter of what they were in September 2019.

Again, I think a strike through the end of the year is quite unlikely. But it’s going to sting. It’s also going to sting consumers if it drives up car prices, which I don’t have to tell you have been through the roof lately.

And, of course, the strikes will have wider impacts on suppliers as this a global, interconnected business. Here’s Bloomberg quoting the U.S. boss for Aisin, the Toyota affiliate that isn’t unionized here but has plants everywhere and makes all kinds of things:


“We would see a direct impact,” Scott Turpin, president of Aisin’s US subsidiary said Wednesday. “If they were to shut down or idle their facilities, obviously that would curtail our shipments to them,” he said of General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV.

“We do purchase from companies that also are direct suppliers to the Big Three,” he said in an interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “We’ve got a handful of suppliers that are fragile, so we worry about what might happen to that supply base.”

And that’s one example of many just in the auto industry.

Your Turn

What do you think happens next? What plants do they strike on after this, and who blinks first here?

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Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
2 months ago

Also posted today the average income in Detroit is $53,000. The average pre overtime pay for UAW is $87,000, and upto $150,000 with OT. They are really suffering on that auto line.

2 months ago

I just got word in the morning meeting at one of the contractors, Ford KCAP (F150 and Transit) is also on strike now

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
2 months ago

FWIW, Wentzville is also where GM produces its full-size commercial vans (GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express).

2 months ago

Stallanis (sp) is so fucking excited this strike happened. They can finally get their inventories down.

2 months ago
Reply to  Greg

this, all day

2 months ago

Solidarity forever!

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
2 months ago

Didn’t the last two rounds of national UAW leadership (Jones and Williams) go in the federal slammer for embezzlement and tax evasion? No wonder voting in the UAW looks toxic to other auto plant workers these days.

This contract will help the “Detroit Three” continue to bleed market share and move more work outside the US. Even if that doesn’t happen, the move to evs will flush about half the current workforce.

2 months ago

You’d imagine you’d be have to be pretty tactical in the three plants you pick for this, and the UAW truly did that:

GM Wentzville assembly in Missouri (Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon)

Stellantis Toledo assembly in Ohio (Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator)

Ford Michigan assembly plant and paint (Ford Bronco and Ranger)

It’s also sending a clear, and very specific message: “we’re not putting up with your lies and bullshit. We’re going straight for the only thing you ghouls care about – the money.”

These are very specifically the highest margin (most profitable) vehicles that they’re making. So it’s not just about a personal middle finger to a man who so richly deserves it; the margins on Wrangler are known to be astronomical. You really think it costs FCAtlantis billions to re-use the same ladder frame since the 1980’s or anywhere near $110k to put a V8 into a Wrangler? Oh hell no.
Colorado/Canyon? Same deal; that’s a model that hasn’t actually seen real changes in over a decade. The tooling costs have long since been paid off. They keep making the worst selling GMC truck (by a wide margin) because every one of them is highly profitable.
And Ford? Ranger tooling is long ago paid off; they literally just brought the foreign Ranger over and federalized it. The P375’s been sold worldwide with only cosmetics since 2011. Bronco, they know they can charge whatever they want, so they do. These are big money makers.

More importantly: these are also plants that are capable of restarting quickly. “We’re going to hit you where it hurts, but we’re not going to kill you.” All of these plants have modern tooling, modern processes, and very high flexibility (see also GM selling ‘heated seats we’ll install later’ among other shit, and the 11 million Wrangler and Bronco ‘trims.’)
UAW can stop these plants on a dime. They can also restart these plants on a dime. If they strike a deal at 4PM Eastern? They won’t even lose half a day of production.

“A 40 percent pay raise over four years, which would bring wages for many full-time workers to roughly $32 per hour.

Reinstate cost-of-living adjustments, which have become a central plank in contract negotiations amid high inflation.

A four-day workweek, a demand that’s grown in popularity since the pandemic scrambled workplace culture.”

If you think any of these demands are unreasonable, then you are a bootlicker or a Pinkerton, plain and simple. Period. Non-negotiable.
40% over 4 years means that at the current pace of ‘inflation’, and considering their prior contract, they’re actually only getting somewhere around 5-10%.
Cost of living adjustments won’t bump that meaningfully. Quit lying; what was your last COLA? Yeah, exactly, maybe a few pennies or if you were really lucky, a whole 3%. ‘Inflation’ is more than double that and on some items, triple that. COLA is a breadcrumb at best.

And a four day workweek? Oh quit your bitching. Offices whining about “you have to work 5 days a week” are only interested in controlling your entire life. It has nothing to do with anything but that.
The UAW isn’t demanding ‘give us 40 hours of pay for 32 hours of work.’ Their demand is ‘give us options; 4×10’s, 4×8 considered as full time, or we can figure something out. We want flexibility.’ (IIRC the current ‘full time’ threshold is 33 or 35 hours.) Why should they be denied the kind of flexibility that other people have these days? If I want to do 4×10 and just not show up on Friday? I have that option. Why should they have to miss their kid’s graduation so Tavares can buy another yacht?
And again: they’re not saying “give us 40 hours of pay for 32 hours of work.” They’re saying “extend benefits to people who work 32 hours for 32 hours of pay, or give us 4 x 10’s, or something. Give us some flexibility so we don’t have to call out sick to attend a kid’s birthday party. And in exchange, we’ll guarantee in writing a reduction in sick calls and unscheduled vacations.”

What do you think happens next? What plants do they strike on after this, and who blinks first here?

There is no question the incompetent silver spoon CEOs – especially Farley – are going to double down on their bullshit and lies in the media. Which will of course, continue to report only their viewpoint and paint the unions as evil demonic communists who want to destroy their employers.

This is, of course, complete and total bullshit.

But Farley has demonstrated he is more than stupid enough to actually believe his lies give him leverage. He’s going to get louder and more obnoxious, and poison the well for Ford. His size 13 mouth is going to destroy any inkling of leverage Ford even imagines they have.

Barra’s general incompetence guarantees that GM is going “lol, we only sell like 100k of those in a great year. We’ll just upsell more people to Silverados or SUVs! We can push back.” (This is 100% what typically happens on those, too – easy upsell into a Silverado/1500 or SUV.) Barra’s far more concerned with protecting her personal paychecks, and at least smart enough to keep her trap shut and her words reasonable. They won’t get serious until the UAW hits Spring Hill or Flint. But they will get serious.

FCAtlantis is a bit of a wildcard. Tavares is from France, but he’s also a Ghosn protege, and has an ego a mile wide and ten miles deep. He’s also historically treated America with contempt and hostility, and loaded up on personal cohorts. Mike Manley would be the person I’d look to to hammer out a deal, but he’s gone. Which means it falls to Mark Stewart – who just prior to Stellantis, was directly overseeing the Pinkerton grade union-busting at Amazon fulfillment. Which is to say: there’s no way he’s an effective or a good faith negotiator. But they might lean on Tim Kuniskis (who started at Chrysler in ’92, and is head of brand for Dodge and Ram,) and someone I know could do a deal.

Either way? Master contract covering all three is almost certainly off the table. Barra would gladly sign up to one if offered. They’re stupid enough to blow up their logistics even worse, but GM is not suicidal. Farley’s big mouth is dropping nuclear bombs on the already burning bridge at Ford. Tavares has already nuked the bridges, salted the earth, and blown the dams – any deal at FCAtlantis is going to come down to who they send to negotiate instead of him.

Also, all you wannabe fascists, bootlickers, and Pinkertons can consider this your personal written invitation to not let the door hit your ass on the way out.

2 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Someone sure likes their soap box. Not sure all of your facts are correct but I commend you for your conviction.

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