RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginians, though not the ones on the picket line, could begin to feel the impacts of the auto workers strike if a deal isn’t reached soon.
On Tuesday, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union walked out on their fifth day of a strike against the big three automakers — Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Stellantis.
Victor Chen, an associate sociology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said auto workers are striking to get back some of the benefits they gave up during the auto crisis in the late 2000s.
“During the Great Recession, the UAW gave up a lot to keep the auto industry afloat, given the crisis in that industry and the need for federal bailout,” Chen said.
Because the big three automakers have been receiving near-record profits — auto workers are demanding healthcare benefits for retirees, getting rid of the two-tiered system where new hires are paid half as much as full-time veteran workers, a reduction in temporary workers, reducing the number of hours workers need for a pay increase, pensions and boosting wages by about 40% over the next four years.
Chen said the auto industry makes up about 3% of the U.S. economy, so the strike could be impactful.
“It will be a significant economic hit if it drags on for weeks,” he said. “The supply chain is so interwoven that just striking those three plants and maybe a few more will shut down all of auto production in the United States.”
Chen said Virginians could deal with reduced inventory while shopping at a dealership, which could mean not being able to get the car they want. It could also mean that you have to pay a much larger premium.
Robbie Althizer, store manager at Certified Auto Repair in Henrico County, said his store is already starting to feel the impacts of the strike.
“If it continues, [car part] prices may even double. It’s still going up, availability is getting worse, and it’s causing a lot of headaches with customers,” he said.
UAW wants to reach a deal by Friday, but if not, auto workers say they’re prepared to continue on.
“It’s a big thing. It’s a big deal already,” Althizer said. “Higher prices and longer wait times. I’m really scared to see what’ll happen in a month or two.”
Althizer said the best way to avoid potentially higher prices for car parts is to do preventative maintenance on your vehicle.