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SU labor relations expert says risky UAW strategy paid off

Men hold blue, gold, and white signs saying "UAW stand up, end tiers"
Scott Willis
UAW members and their supporters gather in front of Syracuse City Hall for a rally Sept. 27, 2023.

The United Auto Workers Union now has tentative agreements in place with the big three automakers, six weeks after they began their unprecedented stand-up strike.  WAER follows-up with a Syracuse University labor and industrial relations expert to find out if the UAW’s calculated strategy paid off.

WAER News last spoke with SU Associate professor of Management Lynne Vincent a few days into the strike. Nearly six weeks later, she says it changed the playbook in several ways.

“This is a really interesting play on negotiation strategies and how people can analyze the situation and find new ways to leverage power," Vincent said. "It seems like it worked very well. And it was a risk.”

She says the gradual expansion of the strike over the past several weeks ultimately forced Ford, then Stellantis, and finally GM to reach agreements.

“Once one goes down, there's greater pressure on the other two to get back to the job because if their competition is back to work making cars, then you've got to get back to work too,” Vincent said.

 In the end, Vincent says workers didn’t get everything they wanted, but did address key values.

 “They have better pay, they have more equitable pay across all types of workers," Vincent said. "They have retirement and pension protections, better benefits.”

 Vincent says from what she can tell, the companies should be able to manage the financial impact. In negotiations, workers pointed out that big three have reaped record profits off their backs.

“This may affect some of their profit margins," Vincent said. However, we have to look at the company as a whole and the rank and file employees are part of that company. And they deserve equitable compensation for the work they do that helps the company overall.”

The tentative deals still need to be individually ratified by the union's membership at each company, and workers have the ability to send their representatives back to the bargaining table.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at