UAW threatens strike at Fiat Chrysler US operations

Strike Looming at Fiat Chrysler

United Auto Workers members are planning to strike at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCAU.N) (FCHA.MI) U.S. plants as soon as Wednesday evening, the first work stoppage since 2007, threatening to bring manufacturing to a halt.

A strike at its U.S. operations could cost the automaker $40 million a week in operating profit, said Sean McAlinden, chief economist with the Center for Automotive Research.

Workers at several plants in Kokomo, Indiana, and at least one in Michigan received notices to be ready to strike but it was not clear whether all Fiat Chrysler plants would be involved.

Kristin Dziczek, labor analyst with the Center for Automotive Research, said the last time the UAW took the company, then known as Chrysler, out on strike it was a "Hollywood strike," as in "just for show" in 2007. That strike, in the second week of October, lasted six hours.

The strike weapon was not available to the UAW until this year for Fiat Chrysler or General Motors Co (GM.N) as part of the 2009 government-sponsored bankruptcies at those companies.

The UAW must balance the need to make a forceful statement to Fiat Chrysler with concerns it could substantially hurt the company, the weakest of the Big Three, which would be bad for its own members and hopes of growth.

Arthur Schwartz, a labor consultant and former negotiator with GM, said, "This is the union's play now. It is up to them what happens."

Schwartz said UAW President Dennis Williams would not want a lengthy strike because of the pain it could inflict on his members and the harm to Fiat Chrysler.

"Chrysler is not in great financial shape, no matter what the UAW members may think. The company is the weakest of the (Detroit Three) so a long strike would hurt them."

Harley Shaiken, labor professor at the University of California, Berkeley cautioned, "A strike deadline is not a strike."

"Strikes are very rare now in the entire economy," said Shaiken.

Work stoppages involving 1,000 workers or more:

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