Tip Sheets

UAW keeps strike leverage, despite hurdles and Big Three opposition

Media Contact

Adam Allington

On Tuesday, the United Automobile Workers expanded its strike to one of General Motor’s most profitable U.S. factories — an assembly plant in Texas.

Harry Katz, professor of collective bargaining at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, says UAW is facing a significant challenge: a large share of U.S. motor vehicle sales produced by workers are not covered by the union. But despite the hurdles, and opposition from the Big Three, UAW maintains strike leverage, according to Katz.

Harry Katz

Jack Sheinkman Professor of Collective Bargaining & Director, Scheinman Institute

“Although the UAW gained the accretion of workers at the new EV battery plants into the national agreements, the deep problem the UAW faces is the large and growing share of U.S. motor vehicle sales produced by workers not covered by UAW contracts (now more than 50%). That includes: the non-union assembly transplants (foreign owned assembly plants operating in the U.S.); the production at non-union Tesla; the sales of imported vehicles (often union but not UAW); and perhaps most importantly the substantial vehicle content produced in non-union ‘independent’ i.e. non-Big Three, U.S. or foreign parts suppliers.

“It appears that what is currently holding up settlements at the Big Three is the reluctance of the companies, especially GM, to agree to union gains agreed to by one of the other companies. I doubt this resistance will persist as the union is determined to maintain relatively strict pattern bargaining and has the strike leverage to ensure that continues.”

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