Usually, when the United Auto Workers strike it's pretty big news. Usually, when the picket lines form, Detroit gets nervous. Usually, when the rhetoric heats up, so do the heart rates of executives running the Big 3.
Not this time.
Yesterday, the UAW went on strike at American Axle . Considering Axle's size and importance to General Motors' truck business, you would think folks in Detroit are worried that shutting down AAM will ultimately put a big hurt on GM. But when I talk to folks in the auto industry, the reaction I get is basically a big shrug of the shoulders.
Given the stockpile of parts American Axle has built up, and GM's bloated truck inventory, both companies could go for quite a while before they notice an impact. And with other companies in the auto industry now paying UAW members, American Axle is determined to get the same kind of deal. And if that means waiting, and shifting work overseas, that's what the parts supplier will do. The UAW counters that its American Axle workers should not be taking a massive pay cut from a company that made $37 million dollars last year.
After the UAW went on strike during the Big 3 contract negotiations last fall, a number of people said the union staged "Hollywood Strikes" designed to make the union look tough more than actually hurt the companies.
I haven't heard the same comments with this strike, but it is interesting that this strike doesn't seem to be "freaking out" people in the auto industry. In fact, one auto consultant said to me, "Big deal. This is not going to be a strike that has huge implications."
Tell that to the UAW workers walking picket lines. Their world is changing, and this is part of the gut wrenching process. It doesn't mean they are right and American Axle is wrong. It simply means, the auto biz is evolving. How else do you explain a UAW strike feeling different.