What does it mean for you?: Looming autoworkers’ strike raises concerns about ripple effects

Shawn Loging sat down with an economic expert to discuss how the strike could impact you.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 7:05 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Time is running for America’s big three American automakers and autoworkers to reach a deal. A strike could soon bring production to a halt. The United Auto Workers union (UAW) is seeking up to a 40% raise for its workers, a four-day workweek and reversing concessions made following the 2008 recession.

If a deal isn’t reached by the end of Thursday, consumers can expect to feel the impact, economic experts say. One place consumers would feel that impact of a strike is with trying to buy a car.

Newman University Associate Professor of Business Dr. Larry Straub said if you’re planning to buy a car in the next three months and a strike happens, you should act sooner rather than later.

Even though the union is calling for limited-targeted strikes rather than picketing every plant, Dr. Straub said with the share of the economy automakers have, this will have an impact, no matter what. A rise in the price of vehicles likely will be one of the most noticeable impacts for consumers if GM, Ford and Stellantis — which makes Chrysler and Jeep vehicles — don’t reach an agreement with UAW and this results in a strike.

The union is pushing for pay increases and other benefits from GM, Ford and Stellantus, after some highly profitable years for the automakers. Dr. Straub said many dealerships are still building back inventory from demand during the pandemic.

‘A lot of them still aren’t there, so it’s not going to take much to kick this thing into the realm of depleting their stocks again,” Dr. Straub said.

He pointed to the last big strike at GM that lasted for 40 days in 2019, which, he said, cost the economy more than $3.5 billion.

The professor said it’s unusual for the union to strike against all three companies at once, but this is also coming when unions have momentum. For autoworkers specifically, Dr. Straub said the situation the companies and union are in follows years of strong profitability and demand for automakers, making for a moment that’s been building for up for years.

“Unions back in 2009 gave up some things to help the big three automakers through the 2008 financial crisis back then,” Dr. Straub said. “They don’t feel like they’ve really gotten any of that back.”

The lone auto plant in Kansas is for GM in Kansas City. But much like with the aerospace industry, Dr. Straub said subcontractors support the big plants and they’d be directly impacted by a long strike.