It has been a little over two months since the GM strike ended. However, the ripple effects of the strike continue to affect not only the steel industry, but apparently the nation as well. GM plants have been working nonstop since the end of the strike to keep dealerships well stocked and to keep customers from moving on from competitors. Mandatory Sunday overtime shifts had been announced over the holiday break and they may continue well into 2020. The winter is typically a slower time for most automotive manufacturers with new model years just over the horizon and many workers having elected to use banked vacation time towards the end of the year. However, the strike at GM, which lasted weeks longer than many had predicted, has placed GM behind the eight ball when it comes to keeping stock at a normal level. Luckily GM, in preparation for the strike, increased their number of finished vehicles in stock to somewhat compensate for amount of down time created by the UAW strike. As for the national impact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US added 266,000 jobs in November. The Bureau credited this increase to better than expected manufacturing hires most notably by that of GM post-strike.
Reasons for the Strike
For those that may be unaware for the reasons behind the strike, let’s do a quick recap. There were several main topics which the UAW and GM needed to hash out. However, these were the ones that were most noteworthy.
1. Setting a new path to full employment to seasonal, part time, and temp workers
2. Employee contribution to healthcare
3. Bonus structure and profit sharing
4. Closing of plants in several states, along with what the future holds regarding production over the border and where GM will plan to produce their line of electric trucks.
Depending on who you ask, each topic was the main sticking point as to why the strike went on for longer than expected. As is the case with most labor disputes, both sides made several concessions that left some with the feeling that they didn’t get exactly what they wanted when the strike ended on Oct 25th.
What the future holds
The silver lining for both GMs competitors, as well as upstream suppliers of automotive products, is that the terms set by GM did lay the groundwork for both Ford and FCA to quickly resolve their UAW contracts and avoid similar strikes. Acting as a blueprint of sorts for the other manufacturers to gauge a ballpark figure that will satisfy the union. The UAW voted 56% in favor for a new 4-year deal that is very similar to that struck by GM. FCA followed closely behind with a deal of their own that will create more jobs in Michigan and which also includes several billions of dollars in investments. Hopes are that these new deals will bring a sense of clarity and confidence to the industry as we start the new year. With any luck, automotive manufacturing will be strong in 2020 and help offset the less than optimistic manufacturing forecasts that have been released by industry experts.