UAW threatens strike at Fiat Chrysler U.S. operations

Tue Oct 6, 2015 7:02pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - United Auto Workers members are planning to strike at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU.N: Quote) (FCHA.MI: Quote) U.S. plants as soon as Wednesday evening, the first work stoppage since 2007, threatening to bring manufacturing to a halt.

A strike at its U.S. operations could cost the automaker $40 million a week in operating profit, said Sean McAlinden, chief economist with the Center for Automotive Research.

Workers at several plants in Kokomo, Indiana, and at least one in Michigan received notices to be ready to strike but it was not clear whether all Fiat Chrysler plants would be involved.

Kristin Dziczek, labor analyst with the Center for Automotive Research, said the last time the UAW took the company, then known as Chrysler, out on strike it was a “Hollywood strike,” as in “just for show” in 2007. That strike, in the second week of October, lasted six hours.

The strike weapon was not available to the UAW until this year for Fiat Chrysler or General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) as part of the 2009 government-sponsored bankruptcies at those companies.

The UAW must balance the need to make a forceful statement to Fiat Chrysler with concerns it could substantially hurt the company, the weakest of the Big Three, which would be bad for its own members and hopes of growth.

Arthur Schwartz, a labor consultant and former negotiator with GM, said, "This is the union's play now. It is up to them what happens."

Schwartz said UAW President Dennis Williams would not want a lengthy strike because of the pain it could inflict on his members and the harm to Fiat Chrysler.   Continued...

A new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sign is pictured after being unveiled at Chrysler Group World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan May 6, 2014.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook