MILWAUKEE — About 200 workers at Big 3 distribution centers around Wisconsin are waiting to hear if they receive strike orders, according to union representatives.
On Friday, workers at Ford, GM, and Chrysler-maker Stellantis walked off the job as United Auto Workers and the car manufacturers negotiated a new contract.
"We're just sort of in a holding pattern. Our people are waiting to hear if we could be in the next wave that goes out," said Steve Frisque, UAW Local 722 President.
Frisque represents workers at the GM distribution center in Hudson and the Ford distribution center in Menomonie.
Frisque, who works at the GM center, indicated he felt this was coming, as wages rose little in recent years compared to inflation and executive pay grew the most.
"You try to get your people prepared for it as much as possible. We've been telling our people the last year and a half, two years, make sure you've (saved) your money," said Frisque.
The other Big 3 distributor is located in Milwaukee. Stellantis has a division, called Mopar, in Bay View. They employ about 100 UAW workers, according to UAW Region 4's Andrew Stark.
"There's no indication they're going to get pulled yet," said Stark. "For now, it's just business as usual, to keep doing the good work UAW members do."
Stark said talks are continuing Friday between UAW and automakers. He hopes workers in Milwaukee can stay on the job while the two sides hammer out a "fair" contract.
Frisque said he's heard the strike could last for a week or even through the end of the year. That unknown also has other local companies taking steps.
"How do you hedge your bet? You do a best case, worst case, and try and focus on what's right for the customer," said Joseph Fikejcs, Heiser Automotive Group CFO.
According to Fikejcs, that means building a bit of inventory and doing what you can to keep people on the road — whether that's repairs or selling a new or used vehicle — until the strike blows over.
"So we have plan B. If we can't fulfill plan A, to sell them the car they want, can we get you in a short-term vehicle, but not necessarily your forever car? And then when the forever car is available, we swap them out," said Fikejcs.
The Heiser CFO said with plenty of inventory on the lot, and the strike limited to three plants across the Midwest, they're not there yet.
"If you want to be an optimist, Covid helped us prepare for supply chain shortages," he said. "Right now it's business as usual because we don't know how long the strike is going to be."