An employee speaks into a megaphone during a worker strike in North America.

Worker Strikes in the Auto
Industry: Lessons Learned So

Worker Strikes in the Auto Industry: Lessons Learned So Far

September 25, 2023

Worker Strike Services, Including Picket Line Security

Worker strikes in the auto sector saw a historic moment on September 14th, 2023, when the labor contract for North America’s largest auto worker union expired. The union, representing 140,000 auto workers, has organized three separate strikes against three different auto brands as a means of pushing their employers for an immediate 40% raise in wages, four-day work weeks, and improved benefits. The “big three” automakers insist that a 20% raise is a historic offering to their staff and should work to address the cost of living crisis for even their entry-level and low-wage earners.

While the union hasn’t taken part in a full strike action across all sectors of the auto industry, selecting specific plants to picket is intended to disrupt the sector’s supply chains and complicate production for employers. Instead of the entire workforce heading to the picket line, employers will likely have to lay off specific roles due to parts shortages from ongoing strikes. In this case, the American government will need to pay unemployment benefits to laid-off auto workers instead of the union having to pay out benefits. The clever tactic of this organized workforce may inspire other unions to do the same in the coming years. 

Worker strikes in auto manufacturing illustrated by a worker on a job site in Michigan.

Worker Strikes: What’s at Risk for Employers

Should employers bend to the demands of their workforce, a new collective bargaining agreement in the auto industry could set the framework for more labor strikes in other sectors. Canadian auto workers, manufacturers, and many other skilled workforces are likely paying close attention to this labor turmoil that is unraveling daily. Depending on the deal struck between these two parties, it could prompt a domino effect of other union strikes. A new CBA between the auto workers of America could reshape profits and impact the bottom lines of employers for the next several decades.

Worker Strikes: Top Lessons Learned from Labor Turmoil in the Auto Sector

The auto worker strike in America is a great learning opportunity for employers who are concerned about potential labor turmoil. These are the most relevant lessons learned:

  • Time is Money: Employers in the auto sector were well aware that their workforce’s contract was going to expire in September, refraining from negotiating with the union directly until they were about to formally strike. Picket lines and strikes could have been avoided entirely if a deal had been struck between the parties months before strike action. Labor strikes are multi-layered and complex events in a company’s history, calling for extensive planning conducted months in advance. It can help reduce the impact of a labor strike, help employers maintain operations, and preserve the bottom line despite ongoing strike action. 
  • Picketing Workers Are Highly Motivated: The union representing over 100,000 auto workers in America is preparing for the long haul, striking to extract better deals from their employers. Much of their demands are in line with the pay increases that key executives have received, demanding a fair share of record-breaking auto manufacturing profits. Employers shouldn’t doubt that their workforce is prepared to take strike action further, with organized labor strikes set to be conducted on a rolling basis across the nation’s many auto plants.
  • Picket Lines Are Not to Be Taken Lightly: Crossing a picket line is a contentious matter for executives, skeleton teams, and temporary workers. Employers are playing a dangerous game without implementing security forces to address the risks to both striking workers and anyone crossing the picket line. While the overall sentiment has remained positive, should the attitude shift, things could turn ugly in a matter of minutes.
  • As an Executive, Say More with Less: Executive leaders in the auto industry are set to have their words carefully scrutinized by news outlets, the public, and their unionized workforce. Saying one wrong thing could spark outrage, result in threats to an executive’s safety, and complicate negotiations between the union and employer. Embrace best practices for social media and public interviews and manage the security risks for an executive’s home and family.

Worker Strikes: Full-Service Solutions by AFIMAC Global

AFIMAC is one of the nation’s only full-service strike security and business continuity companies available to employers.

Leverage a unique blend of security, intelligence gathering, and private investigation tools to help you plan for strike action before it harms your business. AFIMAC can help any employer across any sector in North America plan for the complexities of a labor strike and help you reach favorable deals with your workforce. Gather information, plan for the use of a contingent workforce, and utilize union negotiation strategies to bring a strike to an end as quickly as possible.

Refocus the business and get back to productivity with the many strike-related service offerings from AFIMAC Global. Any employer concerned about upcoming strike action or unionization sentiment in their workforce should begin planning now. Fill out the form below to speak with a representative today. 

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