The Teamsters union is upping the ante in negotiations with Allied Holdings Inc., North America's largest car hauler.
Frustrated by a lack of progress in contract talks, the union is asking members to approve a strike if Allied gets court approval to cancel its labor agreements.
Allied, operating in Chapter 11 since last July, got emergency approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Court to cut union wages 10 percent through June, and last week asked the court to extend the cuts through Sept. 30.
The two sides have been in talks since mid-May.
The union contends Allied is overstating its problems, and it has demanded more financial information. Teamsters officials also say the company executed the wage cuts at least a week before the court order took effect May 2.
If the talks fail, automakers -- particularly the Big 3 -- could be the biggest losers. If the company is liquidated or its workers strike, deliveries of new vehicles could be snarled. Allied has about 47 percent of the North American car- hauling market.
Brad Akins, owner of Akins Ford in Winder, Ga., is taking a wait-and-see approach. He relies on Allied to bring his F-series trucks and would consider using independent contractors if deliveries were interrupted. But because of Ford's bloated inventory, he says a shutdown wouldn't have an immediate impact.
"On a scale from 1 to 10, I'd probably put it at a 5 right now," Akins says.
Allied declined to comment for this article. It has said the cuts are needed to help avoid liquidation and is seeking $62 million in wage, pension and benefit concessions per year over the next four years.