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Impacts of a possible UAW strike in Wisconsin

Nearly 150,000 auto workers are on the verge of striking if Detroit’s Big 3 automakers fail to make a deal with the union.
M&M Complete Car Care on Center
Posted at 10:43 AM, Sep 13, 2023

MILWAUKEE — The buzz of tools at M&M Complete Car Care in Milwaukee could be fleeting if the United Auto Workers union strikes in Detroit. Co-Owner Mark Baker says supply chain issues over the last year have already made things tough but this could be the death knell for his business.

“We’ll go out of business,” Baker said. “Not only that, a lot of people working here will no longer have a job.”

Mechanic at work at M&M Complete Car Care
The future is uncertain at M&M Complete Car Care as they await a potential strike by UAW workers in Michigan.

“Our goal is not to strike,” Lucas DeSpain, UAW Region 4 Assistant Director said. “That’s not what we want to happen. We want to have an agreement that our members will ratify that compensates them well for their work, that is mindful of the massive profits the corporations have received and that the corporations can afford to do.”

Nearly 150,000 auto workers are on the verge of striking if Detroit’s Big 3 automakers fail to make a deal with the union.

The UAW is calling for a new labor contract for roughly 146,000 workers at General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler maker Stellantis. NBC News reports a fairly high likelihood of a strike.

The strike could have an impact on the price of new vehicles and the availability of auto parts.

“Harming the consumer is surely not our intention,” DeSpain said. “But it could happen for sure.”

Those auto parts are crucial for Baker's business. Economic struggles for consumers already force him to sell his services for less than they’re worth. He pointed to an SUV he’d usually charge $7,500 to fix. However, the owner could only afford $3,000. Rather than lose a sale, he agreed to do the work. If the parts he needs to fix these vehicles get more expensive, he says he’ll have to stand firm on the initial costs which could drive away his clientele, who are largely lower-income individuals.

“We wouldn’t be able to get no business,” Baker said. “We’re charging customers that are single moms, single fathers. They are people counting on their cars to get them back and forth to work. We’re hoping things change.”

According to Heiser Automotive Group Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer Joseph Fikejs, they have concerns about the availability of new vehicles and parts to repair vehicles if the strike occurs. Fikejs believes they could see impacts within six to eight weeks for certain models of vehicles, though that could change depending on demand for model-specific vehicles.

If demand outpaces supply due to the strike, Fikejs says, “I would imagine that we would see increased prices on vehicles.” Though, he acknowledges Heiser has not practiced “MSRP plus pricing," a practice some dealerships across the country have implemented over the last few years due to supply chain issues. Earlier this year, MarketWatch reported new cars were selling for an average of 8.8 percent above MSRP.

Heiser is also preparing for potential issues with auto part availability.

“We have increased our faster moving parts for our dealerships, to ensure we have a little more in stock to accommodate our customers for their general maintenance needs.”

To avoid a strike, Detroit's Big 3 will have to meet some of the UAW's demands. The UAW is seeking a 40 percent wage hike over four years, cost-of-living increases, enhanced retirement benefits including pensions, and a shortened 32-hour workweek, according to NBC News. UAW President Shawn Fain has called the demands ambitious. However, Fain has highlighted how GM chief Mary Barra’s compensation grew by 32.5 percent from 2018 to 2022. During the same time frame, the median GM employee’s pay grew by 2.8 percent.

“We want our members to be treated fairly,” DeSpain said. “To share in the massive profits that they’ve created and to have safe jobs that they’re well compensated for and to be able to have some dignity in retirement. That’s what we’re really after. We’re going to do what it takes to get there.”

The UAW's current contract expires Thursday, Sept. 15 at 10:59 p.m.