Analyst: UAW strike strategy unprecedented, warns it may damage both sides

In 1998 a strike between the UAW and General Motors lasted 54 days - stymieing output and costing the company back then, an estimated $2 billion.

Some analysts believe the company never really recovered from it, a lesson likely both sides are taking into account.

"They can be very effective in damaging both sides," said Dr. Marick Masters, Wayne State University. "And what you hope is that this doesn’t become a self-defeating strike in which too much damage is done to both sides that really threatens the ability of the Detroit three to survive."

This time the strike impacts 146,000 workers in total at Stellantis, Ford and GM who are in a position to walk out, if UAW President Shawn Fain gives the word. Right now only 13,000 workers are on the picket line.

"(Fain) said he’ll use any means necessary to get what they want and I take that threat very seriously," said Masters.

The strategy was unique this time around and unprecedented in that all three automakers are now involved. The move to strike at a plant tied to each company – unique.

"How this compares historically, you have to look at the ledger and how well the companies are doing," said Brian Rothenberg.

Rothenberg is a former Spokesperson for the UAW. He doesn’t speak on behalf of the union, but he’s been there on the inside.

"They’re not easy jobs to do even though they pay well," he said. "These contracts lift up the pay and benefits for non-union companies too. I believe if there is ever a time to get this done, it is now."

Rothenberg says the negotiation on both sides is more public than it’s ever been. And all three car companies are behind on electrification when compared to juggernaut in that space – Tesla.

The capitol costs associated with that transition is real.

"Closing the gap from some of those things the UAW workers sacrificed under the Bob King years after the economic downturn," said Rothenberg. "This is the time to do it."

When it comes to the impact - the economy, autoworkers, and car dealers  - the impact is far-reaching.

"I think it’s gonna be short lived," said Roy Williams, General Sales Manager Avis Ford. "I think the two sides will come together and it will be a good thing for both parties. I’d like to not have customers have the trepidation of not purchasing."