KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The first round of UAW strikes are happening in Michigan, Toledo, Ohio and Wentzville, Missouri.
Workers at the Ford Plant in Claycomo, Missouri, and the General Motors Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas City, Kansas, are not apart of the first round of strikes, however that could change.
Local workers are working under an expired contract, so while a majority of the contract stays in effect, members cannot be disciplined or fired without justification, workers are also encouraged to attend local union meetings, refuse voluntary overtime and to not refuse to do any of their job duties.
Greg Kindle is the president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council. He says the impact of any strike, especially General Motors in Wyandotte County, is going to have a ripple effect.
"As a region, we’re the second largest automotive hub in the United States behind Detroit," Kindle said. "So between GM, Ford and the many suppliers that serve them, automotive is a very big piece of the Kansas City metro economy."
Kindle says it not only impacts the urban core, but rural communities as well.
"The ripple effect of how we transport vehicles and the people employed with that. The Union Pacific and BNSF, there’s very few communities frankly in the metropolitan area, the region, that don’t probably have some supplier or somebody who’s working with them," Kindle said. "It’s an extensive network of large and small suppliers that feeds General Motors."
For the Wyandotte County economy, strikes would quickly impact its electrical provider, Board of Public Utilities, or BPU.
"General Motors is the largest electrical user. Those electrical users also provide tax dollars, sales taxes on electrical use to franchise fees," Kindle said. "If they’re not using power, they’re not paying franchise fees. That becomes an impact not only to how BPU operates in terms of the amount of power that it’s generating and how it’s resources are utilized, but that’s a trickle effect as well to the Unified Government."
"The Unified Government also receives tax dollars through the franchise fees, but if you’re not using electricity, you’re not paying franchise fees," Kindle continued. "If you’ve been following the Unified Government's budget discussion, you’d know that every dollar makes an impact."
Kindle highlighted the financial hardships that may come for union members, depending on how long the strike would last.
"When we think about the direct impact to the employees that are at General Motors...so staying on this thing of electricity, if you’re used to getting a good paycheck, and if you drop down to $500 a week, you’re going to be having to make hard choices and that might mean that you can’t pay your electrical bill," Kindle said. "The Kansas City market is very diversified both in terms of its tax base, its employment sector and its people, but if there’s one sector out of all of them that can truly impact all of them, it’s the automotive sector because there’s so many interconnected components to it."
Back in 2019 UAW members with GM went on strike. Kindle believes this one could have a bigger impact.
"The cost of everything between 2019 and even today has been significant, and that’s part of the issue that the unions and the automakers are having," Kindle said. "What amount of money is appropriate in the light of inflation that we have seen since the last contract, to share back with the employees versus what stays with the company to reinvest? And we know there are two sides to every story."
Kindle says there's no easy answer as to what the future looks like.
"I think they’re going to get to that point but this middle point is going to be painful if it lasts very long at all," Kindle said. "We’re very hopeful that the two sides can come together and find a way to create balance where our employees are living in our communities, are paid well and continue to buy new houses, buy new cars and do all the things that they do in our community."
He highlighted the council is already having discussions with partners on what happens if local strikes happen, and the ripple effect that could take place.
"The automotive sector is critically important to the Kansas City market and the spider effects on the economy is unbelievable," Kindle said. "Whether you’re a small business owner, a childcare provider or in the school district, in the faith community, in the social services community, the impact in the automotive sector in the Kansas City market for both to go on strike at the same time is going to have a huge ripple effect on all of us," Kindle said. "I think that we haven’t seen anything quite like this, where both Ford and GM could be on strike at the same time for an unknown amount of time."
Kindle says that's the other piece, is just the uncertainty of how long this will last.
"If you knew it was just a couple of days or you knew it was just a week, you could probably make that work, but the unknown part is where I think it has a lot of us concerned," he said.