Auto industry experts warn of long-term effects from a prolonged strike

Posted at 10:31 PM, Sep 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-21 23:28:10-04

WAYNE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Approaching night eight of constant picketing outside the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, striking workers are not letting up.

“Not at all,” United Auto Workers member Chris Sanders said when asked if he was getting tired. “It invigorates me to see the people going by and honking. We have a lot of support.”

Sanders is with UAW Local 600 and works at Dearborn Stamping Plant but has joined picketers in Wayne four times in times days. He’s hoping for a resolution that meets their demands.

“Ending tiers, better wages, pensions for all and job security,” Sanders said.

“You bet they deserve a raise, and more than just a raise,” industry expert John McElroy of Autoline said. “I think their profit-sharing should be sweetened up. I agree that the tiers should largely be eliminated.”

McElroy warns the strike could last months. While he agrees with some demands, he feels others like pre-bailout-type pension plans could have long-term consequences.

“If Shawn Fain wants to restore those things plus a 32-hour work week… This could likely be the last contract he signs with the Detroit Three,” McElroy said. “They may not be around in four years after this.”

McElroy joined Wayne State professor Marick Masters and Executive Director of MICHauto Glenn Stevens in a Detroit Regional Chamber roundtable discussing the strike.

“I worry about what the long-term situation here is in Michigan, and I'm not just talking about manufacturing,” Stevens said.

All three warned a prolonged strike could have devastating long-term effects on Michigan’s auto industry and overall economy, potentially costing thousands of jobs.

“A four-week strike would cost more than 150,000 jobs in Michigan alone, and you can double that over eight weeks,” Masters said.

“Once you lose the labor you had to lay off or maybe even terminate, good luck getting it back in this labor market,” Stevens said. “That may be one of the bigger fears too, besides lost revenue and financial stress.”

All three say the industry is preparing for added costs and competition as they transition to electric vehicles, but the UAW is holding steady on their demands.

“So many people talk about ‘what effect is this going to have on the economy.’ But the question that should be asked is what not having our fair share is going to have on the economy,” Sanders said. “We’re here and we’re ready and we’re going to last one day longer than the company because we know our fight is righteous.”

UAW President Shawn Fain gave a Friday noon deadline to the Big Three until more union members are told to strike. At 10 a.m. Friday, he is expected to make an announcement on Facebook Live.