What does a UAW strike mean?

Tonight may be the first time the UAW has struck all three automakers simultaneously. With the United Auto Workers strike scheduled for tonight and a black-tie event at the Detroit Auto Show tomorrow night, this is a momentous week for the auto industry.

United State I spoke with Phoebe Wall Howard, the newspaper’s motoring correspondent Detroit Free Pressabout what is at stake for both the union and the automakers.

What does the strike mean for automakers?

Wall Howard cited massive profit losses and loss of goodwill with the public as the main impacts of the UAW strike, from the automakers’ perspective.

“What’s interesting here is that you’re talking about losing manufacturing of the product, as well as money that could have been invested in switching to electric vehicles,” Wall Howard said.

How are automakers reacting to this potential strike?

She noted that the “Detroit Three” — Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, which includes Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, and Jeep — as well as their suppliers, are “uncomfortable.”

“This is a very complex and detailed situation,” Wall Howard said. “Everyone is very, very concerned because it came down to the wire. And that’s not something these automakers want.”

What does a strike mean for the union and its members?

The most obvious answer is that union members will not be able to do their jobs and therefore will not get paid if they go on strike. A strike would also directly impact the profit-sharing checks normally given to UAW members.

“A number of members told me they had never seen such discipline and training in preparing for a strike,” Wall Howard said.

What does a strike outside of the Detroit 3 and the UAW mean?

“The whole country is watching, and actually other countries. “We’ve received feedback from all over the world because this is a manufacturing first,” Wall Howard said.

This strike has also found support outside the UAW. For example, truck drivers within the International Brotherhood of Truck Drivers, another labor union with members from various industries, declared their stance of solidarity with the UAW. The heads of organizations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Detroit have stated that they will not deliver vehicles if there is a strike.

“The reason it resonates with so many union members outside of the UAW is because wages have been stagnant across the United States for the past two decades,” Wall Howard said. “So these unity efforts resonate beyond the manufacturing sector as well.”

What was significant about UAW President Sean Fine’s statements last night?

Shawn Fain went live on Facebook Wednesday evening to share the union’s position. He spoke about his Christian faith, shared Bible verses and urged union members to believe in each other.

“It was a very tough show,” Wall Howard said. “He was constantly angry with the automakers, saying they still didn’t understand what was needed, and there was room to move.”

Fine was also critical of the media. He pointed out that cost margins do not depend on labor and pointed to several factors that lead to higher costs.

Why is timing important?

Friday night is Charity Preview, a black-tie event that kicks off the annual North American Detroit International Auto Show.

“Since all the proceeds go to children’s charities in southeast Detroit and southeast Michigan, it takes on a different color,” Wall Howard said.

If people don’t show up, charities lose out on donations. Charities include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Michigan, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, among other organizations.

The UAW plans to hold a rally at 4pm at the Ford-UAW Building the same night, adjacent to the Detroit North American International Auto Show on Huntington Place.

“They have committed to not disrupting the ceremony, but there will be a very strong presence,” Wall Howard said.

When will the public know whether the union is on strike or not?

Sean Fein will announce the union’s next move at 10pm this evening. It will detail target factories and locations based on counter offers.

“Everyone is on standby,” Wall Howard said.

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