MILWAUKEE — Auto workers in Milwaukee now join a nationwide strike of United Auto Workers. Milwaukee’s Stellantis plant is striking. There are now 38 distribution centers for General Motors and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, that have workers off the job.
For Tina Lake, a Racine County woman who works at the Bay View plant, Friday was a hard day.
“It's a huge deal, a very huge deal. We aren't getting paid what people think we are especially benefits-wise, insurance. That is all going to cease,” said Lake.
In Milwaukee, about 100 workers walked off the job at 11 a.m. Friday along with GM workers at the plant in Hudson.
University of Wisconsin Madison professor Michael Childers, who is an expert in labor relations, says with the state going from thousands of auto workers, more than a decade ago, to now just hundreds, the immediate economic impact of this strike will be moderate.
However, he says just because there are fewer workers immediately impacted doesn’t mean there won’t be a ripple effect. He says the strike is also strategic in how it started with three distribution centers and now has grown.
"Now they've escalated to where they shut down the supply chains on spare parts for the two of the Big 3 that they don't feel like they’re making progress at the table,” said Childers.
Childers expects if the strike lasts another week, the average driver could start to see the impact because dealerships won’t be able to get parts.
"The parts distribution networks is how spare parts move across the country. And now, with these workers on strike. There will be a quite immediate impact in terms of the ability for dealers to get parts to do effect repairs on consumers cars, for example,” said Childers.
In Wisconsin, there are 127,400 auto jobs and 3.5% of the population depends on the auto industry for employment, according to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.
GM calls the expanded strike unnecessary but says it will continue to negotiate. Stellantis echoed those sentiments saying they are disappointed with the union's actions.
Lake says she hopes the strike doesn't last long because every day without a paycheck will be hard on her family and the hundreds of others on strike in Wisconsin. But she is ready if it doesn't end quickly.
“It’s going to be hard. It's going to be really hard. Everything changes now.,” said Lake. “We put away in savings, so we can make end meets when it comes down to it."
According to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the auto industry in Wisconsin brings in nearly $8 billion in income, which equals $1 billion in state tax revenue.