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Big Three Brinkmanship: UAW’s Strike Clock Ticks As Car Giants Stumble on Pay

It’s high noon for the American auto industry, as the United Auto Workers’ Union (UAW) gears up for what might be a historic standoff with the nation’s top carmakers. The clock is ticking towards midnight, and if there’s no agreement on a pay deal, the industry could face its first strike in four years.

UAW President Shawn Fain is not pulling any punches. In fact, he’s rallying his troops to execute a coordinated strike against the Big Three: Ford, GM, and Chrysler’s parent company, Stellantis. If this happens, it’ll be the first-ever simultaneous strike against these major automakers.

It’s evident that the stakes are sky-high. The UAW originally championed a whopping 46% pay hike for its members over the next four-plus years. However, the car giants had a different number in mind. Ford proposed a 20% increment, GM at 18%, and Stellantis coming in slightly lower at 17.5%. Even though Fain reduced his request to 40%, the gulf between the union and the companies remains significant.

To put the situation into perspective, Fain emphasized the enormous profits these companies have raked in over the past decade in a Facebook video: “If they’ve got money for Wall Street, they sure have money for the workers making the product,” he remarked. Highlighting the imbalance, he alluded to the companies’ apprehensions about impacting their billionaire economy.

The looming strike has been closely watched by investors. Ford and GM stocks showed minor upticks in pre-market trading. However, according to Garrett Nelson of CFRA Research, GM might have more to lose from a protracted standoff given its lower inventory levels. On the flip side, Shoggi Ezeizat from Third Bridge thinks Ford could be the softest target due to its significant reliance on high-margin models like the F-150 Lightening.

Economic repercussions are also a rising concern. Anderson Economic Group recently estimated that a mere 10-day strike might inflict a $5.6 billion hit to the U.S. economy and potentially plunge Michigan into a recession. The ripple effects of such an action could be even more far-reaching than previous strikes, including the 2019 GM strike, given the current global supply chain vulnerabilities.

As negotiations continue and the industry holds its collective breath, it’s clear that the outcome of this showdown could shape the auto industry and the broader economy for years to come. Whether the UAW and the Big Three can find a middle ground remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: the road ahead promises to be a challenging one.