United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain has warned Detroit’s Big Three automakers repeatedly in recent weeks that his members are prepared to strike against any or all of them if new contract agreements are not in place by next week’s deadline, but how likely is it that a work stoppage might occur at Ford, General Motors or Stellantis?
FOX Business spoke with three labor experts to get their take on the matter, and all agreed that at this point, there are multiple scenarios that could play out, and it is very difficult to predict. However, they varied in whether they believe a strike might actually happen when current contracts expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14.
“I feel like there’s a good chance something will happen,” said Joshua Murray, assistant professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University and the author of the book “Wrecked: How the American Automobile Industry Destroyed its Capacity to Compete.”
“Exactly what – will it really be all three? I’m not sure,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a strike happens.”
Murray said, in his view, the current leadership at the UAW is more committed to direct action and strikes than previous leadership at the union, as opposed to concessions and negotiations.
UAW is seeking a 46% pay raise over the four-year contract along with an array of additional benefits, including a reduction of the workweek to 32 hours for 40-hours-worth of pay for its 146,000 members across the Big Three.
Ford came back with an offer of a 15% raise over the term of the next contract, and GM offered 10%. Stellantis is still planning its counteroffer after an earlier one was rejected by the union.
Dennis Devaney, senior counsel at the Detroit branch of international law firm Clark Hill and a former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member, told FOX Business he predicts there will be an extension of the current contract as the UAW and automakers continue to negotiation and that no strike will occur on Sept. 14.
He said that if a strike does occur, the UAW would likely target Stellantis, whose initial contract offer Fain dismissed as trash.
“I think that a strike will really be damaging to the industry,” said Devaney, who currently represents a number of auto suppliers, all of whom he said are concerned about the potential loss of business they face. “Will it hurt the auto manufacturers? Yeah, absolutely. Well, would hurt the union? Yeah, I think it will hurt the union as well. But I think more importantly than that, it’s going to have a major impact on the auto business because, we’re still fooling with the semiconductor shortages.”
Jason Greer, the founder of labor management and employee relations firm Greer Consulting, Inc., said he does not think a strike will occur, calling the situation “really a case of saber-rattling.”
Greer, who is a former board agent with the NLRB, said strikes are more costly today than they were 30 years ago, and would not only be difficult for the automakers but to striking union members who would be tested by going without pay.
He told FOX Business, “Because of inflation, because of other economic considerations and the fact that Americans live above their means anyway – people can’t afford to go without this paycheck.”