At $500 a week per member — potentially plus health care costs — the union has a few months’ worth of strike pay on hand.
“Let me assure you, the VPs, myself, all the leadership at this level, the bargaining committees, we understand how to manage this,” Fain said in response to a worker’s question on the issue during a Facebook livestream in early August. “We have a plan. Come Sept. 14, if these companies don’t deliver, they’re going to see that plan unfold.”
While a UAW spokesperson declined to discuss the union’s strategy, Fain this week declared that “everything’s on the table.”
That includes a strategic bottleneck strike that halts production at key sites, forcing other plants to close.
“With just a few plants, you could have a pretty substantial impact to profitable vehicles without having that many employees walk,” Jeff Schuster, executive vice president of GlobalData, told Automotive News.
Such a tactic would limit what the union would have to pay out on the picket line since workers at plants shuttered for parts shortages would not get strike pay. But it could be fraught with legal risk, and people familiar with the matter say non-striking workers who get temporarily laid off would not be eligible for supplemental unemployment benefits from the automakers, and eligibility for traditional unemployment pay could vary based on state laws.
Still, a bottleneck strike could be effective.
The most famous example occurred at two General Motors plants in 1998, where a few thousand workers in Flint, Mich., ultimately took down about 30 other GM assembly plants and 100 North American parts plants for almost two months. The strike cost GM some $2 billion.
A similar bottleneck strike occurred in 1996, when a walkout at two plants in Ohio forced GM to shutter virtually all operations.