UAW strike looms over Detroit auto show

It’s not “either we have a strong auto industry or workers are fairly compensated,” she said. “We can and must do both. That’s why I’m hopeful they’ll stay at the table and get a contract done.”

UAW President Shawn Fain said Wednesday that the union will strike certain Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Stellantis NV plants starting early Friday. During a Facebook livestream, he called automaker proposals offering raises of up to 20 percent insulting and said the union would begin announcing the first targeted plants at 10 p.m. Thursday.

There were no signs of picketing or demonstrations at Huntington Place on Thursday, though the looming strike was top of mind for many. A strike could cause $5 billion in economic losses in just 10 days, according to an Anderson Economic Group study, and automaker won’t be the only ones hurting. Supplier are also vulnerable.

Another disruption is the last thing the industry needs after more than two years of supply chain mayhem, including inflation, labor challenges and parts shortages, said Andreas Wolf, CEO of auto supplier Vitesco Technologies Group. The company, which has its North American base in Auburn Hills and counts the Detroit 3 as primary customers, spun off from Continental AG in 2021 and is in rapid growth mode after facing post-IPO challenges — not a great time for plants to go down, the CEO said.

“If you go into a strike, you’re destroying the economy … after all that’s happened,” Wolf said on the sidelines of the auto show.

Automotive suppliers at every tier are on standby to see if they will continue to ship parts tomorrow and beyond, said Ann Marie Uetz, partner and vice chair of the national litigation department at Foley & Lardner LLP.

“The automotive supply chain is incredibly resilient, but a strike lasting more than several weeks will undoubtedly cause some suppliers to seek bankruptcy protection — especially smaller Tier 2 and 3 suppliers who are already battling increased costs and lower profits,” Uetz said in an email.

Whitmer called the moment an “important inflection point.”

“We’re building the center of the auto industry. The incredible transition is happening here,” Whitmer said. It’s important that workers have a good contract but also critical that the Big 3 continue to do the work that they’re doing.”

Automotive News reporter Michael Martinez contributed to this report

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