TOLEDO, Ohio — The start of September signals many things, like school and crisp morning air. But this year, September brings with it a countdown for the auto industry.
The United Auto Workers and the Big Three are in a stalemate negotiating a contract that expires Sept. 14. UAW president Shawn Fain has a list of demands: a 40% pay hike, pensions returned and cost of living adjustments returned.
“That’s an initial demand, you could imagine they’ll meet in the middle somewhere,” said WWJ 950 AM Auto beat reporter Jeff Gilbert. “So this is where they started, and the union strategy is to ask for everything and see what happens. It definitely is a shock and awe strategy.”
Gilbert says he’s covered the auto industry exclusively since 2005. But prior to that he covered just about any breaking and non breaking story you can imagine. Still, this year, for him, presents a new dynamic in labor negotiations.
“You can’t use the word traditional this year, because everything has changed,” says Gilbert. “There’s a new president (Fain) in charge of the UAW; the first who was directly elected by members. His campaign was that he was going to put heat on the car companies. He says right now that all three are the targets, but I’ve been told by the UAW that that does not commit to striking all three at the deadline.”
Gilbert’s expertise goes beyond interviews with the leadership on both sides. He says having reported on strikes in the past, communities need to prepare for the potential ripple effects of a picket.
“Obviously. it’s difficult when people are not working," he said. "The UAW members will get $500 a week strike pay for the time they’re off. That replaces some of the income, but obviously, it has an impact on stores, it has an impact on other things in the community, so it will be difficult times.”
Gilbert said if a strike happens, and considering the uncertainty of an eventual agreement, the impact will be felt around the country, specifically at car dealerships.
“There’s a real chance that if the inventory of the Detroit three are cleaned out, but the inventories of the imports aren’t, then the imports will get a sales boost, and those sales will be lost forever and competitors will have new potential customers in the future,” he said.
You can hear more of the conversation and what Gilbert had to say about the impact that electric vehicles Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on WTOL 11’s Leading Edge.