UAW strike continues, effect on suppliers grows

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — As the heat poured off the pavement, striking workers at General Motors’ Grand Rapids Operations in Wyoming got some relief from a neighbor.

Jeff Kozee, whose gourmet nut and chocolate shop has been in Wyoming for decades, passes the plant every day on his way to the family business. He brought water to the strikers Thursday.

“It’s just the support we want to give them as just people out here doing what they think is right. No political stance. But it’s hot,” Kozee said.

As the strike wears on, strikers may not be the on only local autoworkers off the job.

“Still in early days yet, third, fourth day in. But again, once you get beyond that week or two, the ripple effect does start to set in,” IHS Markit automotive industry analyst Mike Wall said.

While we don’t build complete cars in West Michigan, we make a lot of the parts that go into them. According to regional economic development agency The Right Place, Inc., major auto suppliers employ about 15,000 workers in West Michigan.

Many of those companies have diversified over the years, making parts for several automakers or even other industries, so they’re better prepared to weather a setback than they were during the recession. But when a major player like GM shuts down, there’s only so much that can be done to make up for the lost work.

“It’s not a case of mass layoffs, per se, but you definitely could see certain lines go down. You can see some adjustments that need to be made the longer this goes on,” Wall said.

News 8 reached out to a number of suppliers throughout West Michigan. Gill Industries in Plainfield Township said it is exploring options to keep employees working.

“We continue to monitor the situation. We hope that the strikes comes to an immediate resolution. We are beginning to explore our options to keep all plant workers in full production possibly on other customer work, but have made no adjustments as of today,” it said in a statement.

Denso Manufacturing, which has a thermal manufacturing facility in Battle Creek that supplies GM, also released a statement to News 8:

“We are monitoring the situation and waiting to see how it unfolds, as the impact on our production for GM will be determined by how long it takes to reach a compromise. We remain hopeful that both sides will find a quick and agreeable resolution. As always, we will adjust our production schedules based on customer release schedules.”

So far, neither company has announced layoffs.

But the longer the strike continues, the more difficult it will be for some manufacturers to keep all the lines humming.

“We’re still hopeful that (the strike will last) no longer than maybe a week or two, because that’s when it starts to have a broader impact,” Wall said.

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