Michigan’s Manufacturers: Fortitude in the Face of Disruption
As the United Auto Workers union extends its strike on Detroit’s Big Three automakers, I take pause to consider the gravity of the situation for our automotive sector and legacy, our state and its communities, and families whose lives and livelihoods are tied to the Michigan's economically vital automotive industry.
Experts now estimate a nationwide economic loss of $5.6 billion for a 10-day strike. With Michigan at the center of the domestic auto industry, we will feel the impact far more than other states.
The strike itself, and recent discovery of the UAW’s revealed strategy to inflict reputational damage on the Big Three, poses a real and serious threat to our region’s automotive manufacturing future, if not brought soon to resolution. This is a fate we cannot afford to have come to pass.
Michigan’s manufacturing base, a diverse powerhouse responsible for more than 19 percent of gross state product and direct employment of over 608,000 Michigan workers, has faced significant challenges in recent years. We struggled in 2020 throughout the pandemic, wrestled supply chain issues in 2021 and battled workforce gaps in 2022. While 2023 has been a year of progress, the UAW’s strike has rattled any nascent cautious optimism.
Beyond the immediate impact on the OEMs, the automotive supply chain is certain to react with layoffs as the strike takes its bite. Our Michigan Manufacturers Association members have been clear that they will maintain operations and employment levels as long as possible, but slowdowns and layoffs are inevitable, with suppliers across Michigan feeling the pinch as orders from the Big Three decline.
The longer the strike, the more citizens across Michigan will face layoffs, and not just UAW members. Layoffs, in turn, will affect restaurants, stores and local businesses. The economic impact will be felt throughout Michigan’s communities and our state, as well as the nation.
A prolonged strike is in no one’s favor, and we strongly encourage a rapid resolution as the stakes are high for Michigan’s future. Aside from limiting economic damage, a rapid end to the strike is needed to ensure our domestic automakers’ dominance over competitors and our lead position in the EV transition.
Despite seemingly endless challenges, Michigan manufacturers have endured and emerged stronger. It’s that grit, perseverance and entrepreneurial mindset that is quintessentially Michigan. The original thinkers and doers, manufacturers have always been proactive in devising and deploying adaptive strategies to get to the upside of changing circumstances.
Michigan’s manufacturing excellence is built on a foundation of resilience and innovation; I am confident we will emerge from this current uncertainty with agile fortitude. Still, negotiators of good faith must put noses to the grindstone, hammer through contract talks, and bring the strikes to a close, ASAP. Hanging in the balance are worker futures and the future of our state’s automotive sector as the cornerstone of our economic strength and security.
This article was submitted to the Detroit News in September 2023.
John J. Walsh
MMA President & CEO