DETROIT — Damage from the UAW's nearly monthlong strike against General Motors goes far beyond the plants that have been surrounded by picket lines, and recovery after it ends could take significant time for the dealerships, suppliers and other employers that depend on GM. Some small businesses have warned they're in danger of failing from the lost revenue.
By the end of last week, some 150,000 workers either had been laid off or had their pay reduced as the walkout "ballooned in scope," Anderson Economic Group said. The Michigan consulting firm's figure includes 75,000 supplier employees and 25,000 GM salaried workers. But it doesn't account for restaurants and shops in factory towns that are seeing sales slump as GM workers adjust to living on just $250 a week in strike pay.
Dealers had to tell irritated customers that some repairs couldn't be done because parts weren't available. They were also running out of loaner vehicles to help those customers get around while they waited.
Although most dealerships still had plenty of vehicles on their lots to sell, some said fixed operations profits were being strained. Even if the strike were to end quickly, stores could start to miss out on monthly bonuses tied to vehicle or parts sales, and deliveries might not return to normal until after the busy year-end shopping season begins next month.
"We feel like we are collateral damage that neither GM or UAW cares about," Jay Frye, director of fixed operations at Young Automotive Group in Layton, Utah, told Automotive News. "The sad thing is that at the end of the day, GM and UAW will eventually come to an agreement and will be able to go forward better than before — but the dealer body will have paid a substantial price in profits, employee earnings and customer perception."
As union members continued picketing around the clock, UAW and automaker leaders exchanged public barbs last week in the form of terse statements and videos accusing each other of stalling negotiations. The UAW claimed GM was using the media to spread "half-truths."
GM CEO Mary Barra waded into negotiations for the first time last week, summoning UAW President Gary Jones, the union's top GM negotiator and other officials for a private meeting aimed at speeding up discussions.
"The strike has been hard on you, your families, our communities, the Company, our suppliers and dealers," GM said in a statement. "We have advised the Union that it's critical that we get back to producing quality vehicles for our customers."