Auto Workers' Contract Expires Thursday — And Detroit's Big Three May Face Even Steeper Losses Than 2019 If They Strike


For the first time, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is simultaneously looking to strike against three major auto manufacturing companies—Ford, General Motors (GM) and Stellantis — if a contract is not agreed upon before current contracts expire on Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET, with many auto industry experts sounding the alarm over impacts for dealers and consumers.

Key Facts

One week of a potential auto workers strike against the Big Three (or the Detroit Three) could lead to decreasing inventory and increasing prices, with about 22,000 units being impacted each day, Sam Fiorani, the vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions, a global automotive forecasting data company, told Forbes.

According to Fiorani, the Ford F-150, the Chevy Silverado and the RAM 1500 will be the most-impacted vehicles because they have the highest demand; consumers could see fewer deals and incentives and could be forced to pay whatever price is listed on the vehicle if inventory drops.

If a strike were to last as long as the most recent example — the 40-day strike against GM in 2019 which cost the company $4 billion — it could cost the three car manufacturers as much as $5.4 billion each, according to one estimate from Moody’s Analytics.

The strike could also have knock-on effects for the industry, including tier 2 suppliers of the parts that end up in cars and tier 3 suppliers of metal, plastic and other raw materials, many of which are small companies which could face stiff headwinds — including the potential to go out of business — if a strike drags on.

Big Number

$989 million. That’s how much the manufacturers could lose in profit in just 10 days of UAW workers striking, according to automotive industry insights company Anderson Economic Group (AEG), because “they have all this production capacity that’s sitting there idle, and then they also have supply contracts and other things where they’re paying for supplies they can’t use,” Patrick Anderson, the founder and CEO of AEG, told Forbes.

Crucial Quote

Dealers could start to run out of vehicles within days of a strike due to lower inventory levels than 2019, Anderson explained, saying the strike will “mean that some people can’t get their cars, some salespersons are going to miss out on their commissions, some of the repairs are not going to be done because you can’t get parts…and those losses are going to be spread all over the country.”

Key Background

In August, 97% of UAW members at Ford, GM and Stellantis—of which there are 150,000 members—voted to authorize a strike if an agreement on new contracts is not met by the Thursday, September 14, at 11:59 p.m. deadline.. The workers are requesting a 40% wage increase, reestablishing cost of living adjustments, more paid time-off, pension benefits and retiree medical benefits, among other requests. Since last month’s strike authorization, UAW President Shawn Fain said there had been little progress in negotiations, increasing the likelihood of a potential strike.


GM told Forbes the parties worked through the weekend negotiating, and that it wanted a contract that rewards union members while also “allowing us to pursue our growth strategy through continued investment in our U.S. manufacturing operations and American jobs.” Stellantis and UAW had “reached tentative agreements in a number of important areas, including health and safety,” North America human resources vice president Tobin Williams said in a statement. After the UAW countered Stellantis’ economic proposal on Sunday, Stellantis said it has been in communication with UAW subcommittees and has passed along at least two more economic offers to the UAW this week. Forbes reached out to Ford and the UAW for comment.

Surprising Fact

A couple days after the UAW authorized a strike, Unifor, the union representing 18,000 auto workers of Ford, GM and Stellantis in Canada, overwhelmingly authorized a strike as negotiations with Ford continue ahead of their September 18 contract deadline. While the UAW is uniquely targeting all three of the Big Three, Unifor is taking the traditional route, which Fiorani describes as targeting one that sets the precedent for the other two. If UAW workers go on strike, they would be joining Hollywood actors and writers and Los Angeles hotel workers on the picket line.

Further Reading

UAW Strike: GM Offers 20% Raises In 11th-Hour Pitch To Avert Massive Strike (Forbes)

‘It’s Looking That Way’: Auto Workers Union Warns Of Looming Strike After Biden Says He’s ‘Not Worried’ (Forbes)

UAW Union Approves Potential Strike At Ford, GM And Stellantis—Here’s What A Strike Would Mean (Forbes)

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