The peace treaty between Dana Corp. and the UAW suggests that the union is prepared to organize other suppliers of chassis components.
The UAW has not indicated which suppliers it will target next. But companies such as ArvinMeritor and TRW would be likely targets. Both companies do considerable business with the Big 3, and both have at least some unionized factories.
Dana fits this profile. Nine of the Toledo, Ohio, manufacturer's 200 U.S. factories are represented by the UAW. The union had launched an organizing drive at a Dana factory in Elizabethtown, Ky. That plant makes truck parts for Ford Motor Co.
Under the agreement announced last week, Dana will remain neutral in this and other UAW organizing drives. If more than half of the hourly workers in any plant sign cards endorsing the UAW, Dana will accept the results and forego a plant election.
The Dana agreement fits the UAW's strategy for organizing major suppliers:
Last year, Johnson Controls Inc. accepted a similar deal covering all U.S. plants that supply Big 3 customers. And Intier Automotive agreed to remain neutral when the UAW sought to represent certain plants.
Now the union appears to be targeting the chassis component sector. Last year, the UAW negotiated a neutrality agreement with Metaldyne, the Plymouth, Mich., maker of underbody components.
Since American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. of Detroit already is unionized - and since Dana won't fight the union's organizers - the UAW has lined up three of the chassis sector's biggest suppliers.
"It certainly gives them critical mass," says Robert Hinchliffe, an analyst for the brokerage firm UBS Warburg. "It makes sense to go after companies who have a hard time moving plants out of the country."
But the union faces several pitfalls. First, the chassis sector has not consolidated to a handful of giant suppliers. With more companies to target, the UAW's organizers will be stretched thin. "Consolidation in the supplier sector is exactly what the union wants," says Sean McAlinden, a senior researcher for the Center for Automotive Studies, a think tank in Ann Arbor, Mich. "The union wants the sector to get down to two or three profitable suppliers."
ArvinMeritor would take a major step toward consolidation if it successfully acquires Dana. But that hasn't happened, McAlinden says. "So it's going to be much tougher."