United Auto Workers has seen its membership – and influence – decline over the last few decades. And that's dampening the impact of the national strike against General Motors Co., which would have been bigger two decades ago.
Look no further than the last time the labor union went on strike against GM for more than two days. Some 3,400 UAW members quit their job for 54 days at the Flint Metal Center in 1998. This resulted in 193,000 layoffs due to the ripple effect of production shutdowns at GM plants around the country.
The other week, then-President Bill Clinton had publicly called for a resolution. GM lost around $ 4.5 billion during the walkout, which would be more than $ 7 billion today.
It was the result of a strike at a single plant.
In 1[ads1]970, some 340,000 GM-UAW members of the job went on a national strike. UAW had the same number of members in its GM segment as it has in almost the entire UAW now. The union reported that it had 395,703 members last year. That is about a quarter of the peak in 1979 of around 1.5 million members.
As the ongoing national strike against GM from the UAW extends to a fifth week, the economic impact of the strike has been minimal outside Michigan and in some cities with GM plants and car suppliers who have laid off workers as a result of the walkout.
"The UAW is in a much weaker position," said Patrick Anderson, CEO of East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group. "There is no doubt that if we had had a strike of this duration two decades ago, I would not be one of the only people to point out that it was a recession. You would have seen pain a lot before."
UAW declined to comment.
This strike has cost the car manufacturer about $ 1.13 billion. The 46,000 UAW members who walk picket lines outside 55 GM plants will pay $ 250 a week for strikes. Around 100 suppliers have laid off 12,000 workers since the strike began.
A report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics last week shows that the industrial sector lost 2,000 jobs in September, although economists did not attribute it to the strike that began halfway through the month. Grant Thornton LLP chief economist Diane Swonk attributed that contraction to "weakness in customs and trade."
The full national impact of the walkout will not begin to become apparent until the October hiring report comes out November 1, she said. Depending on when the strike ends, she expects it will have "a very small impact" in the third quarter, but she expects these losses to be collected for the rest of the year.
"It has congestion effects," Swonk said. "It affects suppliers, and it affects production in both the US and Canada, but GM is not as big as it once was, and the effects are smaller than they once were."
East Lansing's Anderson Economic Group estimates employees have lost $ 624 million in salaries nationwide; It has lost $ 250 million in federal tax revenue. Closer to home, Michigan has lost $ 13.8 million in tax revenue.
A greater number of car suppliers feel the pinch during the ongoing strike than they might have just a decade ago because automakers outsourcing more parts now.
"The economic impact is still quite large," said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Ann Arbor Center for Car Research. "It's just that they don't all work for GM anymore."
Anderson and Dziczek said that UAW membership has fallen – especially on GM – due to reasons that are largely outside the union's control.
In 1985, car workers in Canada split into their own Canadian Auto Workers union, which has since combined with Unifor. And in the 1990s, GM sold its parts of businesses such as Detroit-based American Axle & Manufacturing Inc. and what is now Aptiv PLC.
A restructuring of GM after the bankruptcy in 2008 shuttered some facilities. The automaker has moved some production outside the United States; The San Luis Potosi Assembly plant in Mexico opened in 2008.
Later under CEO Mary Barra, GM has pushed for controlling fixed costs and is a much more disciplined company. It has turned to several suppliers to build components for GM products, and moved some work in the plants, such as janitorial work, outside the company.
As Anderson sees it, "General Motors is a completely different company. It is a company that sells a majority of its products in China, not the United States."
The automaker's US market share in 2000 was close to 30%; by 2018 that share had fallen to about 17%. Standing sales in the United States do not hit as hard as they once did because the automaker sells so many of its products outside the United States
"When I started, there were 300,000 of us," said Robert Gidley, 65, a 41-year-old tool maker at GM's Romulus engine. "We're at about 48,000 now. It's a different time." contributed.
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