'It’s going to hurt': Local repair shops brace for impact of UAW strike on parts depots

Posted at 10:50 PM, Sep 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-22 23:17:09-04

CENTER LINE, Mich. (WXYZ) — It's day eight of the United Auto Workers being on strike, but day one in Center Line. Workers are making their demands heard.

“I got to get two jobs to pay for what I need to do. It's just unfair,” employee Troy Alexander said. “We're out here until they end tiers… You could be standing next to a person making $30 (an hour) and you could be making $17 (an hour). Unreal, doing the same job.”

“We’re family just doing what needs to be done,” employee Terrance Jose said.

Jose is a packer at a facility in Center Line, which is a parts depot for Stellantis, shipping out parts for service and repairs.

“Your car is in the shop, it (part) comes through here,” Jose said. “Brakes, lights, whatever you need.”

Parts depots were the target in this wave of strikes, with members at 38 General Motors and Stellantis facilities walking off the job, which is blow to those companies and also many others.

“It’s going to hurt us more than it’s going to hurt them, unfortunately,” said Rodney Brumley, shop manager at Universal Auto House in Center Line.

The small, independent repair shop relies on the parts that come from these facilities. Brumley says factory parts are better quality than aftermarket products. Finding them now is going to be a challenge.

“It’s going to be a nightmare for the next, however long it’s going to take. We don't know,” Brumley said. “If we can't get the parts, that’s going to make the customers angry at us.”

Unlike bigger dealers, small independent shops don’t have the budget to stock up on parts and usually only order them on demand when drivers need them.

“It's going to hit the consumer this time, not just the manufacturer,” auto industry expert John McElroy of Autoline said. “I think it’ll be fairly quick.”

McElroy says he wasn’t surprised about the strike strategy because UAW President Shawn Fain is using the element of surprise.

“Everyone was expecting him to go after full-sized pickup trucks where they make all their profit, but Shawn Fain has shown he does the unexpected.” McElroy said.

“When you fighting for something, everybody is going to feel it,” Jose said. “If you have a righteous cause, this is a righteous cause… Why is it that we always have to sacrifice for the next man? Why they (company) can't sacrifice and bite the bullet and get us what we need?”

As workers continue to fight for better benefits, an end to tiers and wage increases, the union and companies remain at odds. Brumley says he wants workers to get a fair agreement and hopes it comes soon.

“We’re going to have to play it by ear,” Brumley said of managing the strike. “Unfortunately, we’ve got families ourselves that we have to support. We have to make ends meet.”