The UAW Strike: A Tangled Web of Labor, Law, and Logistics

by | Sep 15, 2023 | Auto Manufacturing, Breaking, Industry, Labor Relations Ink, Labor Relations Insight, Logistics, Manufacturing, News, Politics, Strikes, UAW, Unions

Today, we’re diving deep into the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the Detroit Big 3—Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. Now, if you’re thinking this is just another labor dispute, buckle up. This strike is a labyrinth of legalities, logistics, and, yes, labor issues that could have ripple effects far beyond the factory floors.

The Strike’s Ground Zero

First off, let’s set the stage. The UAW has initiated a strike against all three of the Big 3 automakers simultaneously for the first time in history. While the strike currently involves only one plant for each automaker, covering about 13,000 of the UAW’s 145,000 members, the union has hinted at expanding its scope.

The Stand-Up Strike

According to the UAW, the so-called “Stand Up Strike” is a new approach to striking. Traditionally, the UAW has chosen a single target company and taken them out on strike, using the resulting agreement as the benchmark for contracts with the other Detroit auto manufacturers.  Under this new model, instead of striking all plants all at once, select locals will be called on to “Stand Up” and walk out on strike. The union claims that as time goes on, more locals may be called on to “Stand Up” and join the strike, providing maximum leverage and flexibility in their fight with the Big Three automakers.

The Domino Effect on Suppliers

Here’s where it gets interesting. The strike isn’t just a headache for the Big 3; it’s a full-blown migraine for the nation’s 5,600 automotive suppliers. Many of these suppliers are still recovering from the economic blows dealt by COVID-19. Now, they’re staring down the barrel of a strike they hoped would never happen. Orders are being canceled, and cash flows are drying up faster than a puddle in the Sahara.

The Fine Print Matters

Legal Eagles have been advising suppliers for months to review their contracts and shore up liquidity. Why? Because the devil is in the details. Some contracts allow suppliers to suspend or limit orders without liability during a strike. Others might not be so forgiving, potentially leading to breaches of contract and a cascade of legal issues.

The Bankruptcy Scare

Ann Marie Uetz, a bankruptcy partner at Foley & Lardner, warns that a prolonged strike could push smaller Tier 2 and 3 suppliers into bankruptcy. These suppliers are already grappling with increased costs and dwindling profits. A strike lasting more than a few weeks could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The Human Element

Let’s not forget the people at the heart of this. UAW President Sean Fain is pushing for nearly 40% raises, double what the Big 3 have offered. The union is also demanding 32-hour workweeks, an end to temporary workers, and a return to defined benefit pension plans. These are not just numbers on a balance sheet; they’re issues that affect real lives.

Final Thoughts

So, what’s the takeaway? Open communication is key. Suppliers should be transparent with both their customers and sub suppliers to navigate this storm. And let’s not underestimate the strike’s potential to send shockwaves through the industry, affecting nearly 871,000 workers in the supply chain.

This UAW strike is more than a labor dispute; it’s a complex web that could ensnare a wide range of stakeholders. As always, the devil is in the details, and those details could make or break companies, contracts, and careers.


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