The United Auto Workers union has a big year ahead of it. Following General Motors’ massive manufacturing restructuring announcement this past November, four U.S. plants are either idled or preparing to idle in the months to come.
Come September 14, the current UAW-GM labor contract will expire, and there’s absolutely the possibility of a strike on the table. However, don’t look for one unified national strike these days. Automotive News (subscription required) reported Sunday that the UAW instead favors a “targeted” strike strategy, which could be just as effective.
Gone are the days of national strikes due to a number of factors. The UAW represents far more workers outside of the automotive industry these days, and houses fewer members than it did, say, 20 years ago. Experts agreed that it would be mighty difficult for every UAW member to agree to a national strike in a case where GM doesn’t give an inch on union demands. High on the priority list is job security for UAW workers, fewer temporary workers, and the ultimate prize: getting assembly lines humming at the Lordstown, Ohio, Detroit-Hamtramck, Michigan, and two transmission plants again.
GM has shown no intentions to keep any of the plants open as it looks to streamline operations and increase profitability as it expects tougher times ahead.
A targeted strike will be the preferred method, per the report. Here, the UAW would call on one central plant to the automaker’s operations to walk out and take to the picket line. In GM’s case, AN identified two prime targets: the Toledo transmission plant and Tonawanda engine plant. Toledo builds transmissions for 10 vehicle assembly plants in the United States and Canada, which would effectively halt operations at those other plants. In this strategy, other UAW workers at the plants without parts keep their pay and benefits.
The strategy includes the possibility of rotating strikes, too. To share the burden, Toledo transmission could come online, but the UAW could vote to strike at the Tonawanda engine plant. While transmissions would be produced, engines for crucial models would cease production. Tonawanda builds four-cylinder engines for crossovers and sedans, and produces both V8 and V6 engines for trucks and SUVs—all important vehicles for GM.
It remains to be seen how negotiations will unfold with GM and the UAW, but we have a feeling it will be a long summer.
Source: Automotive News (subscription required)