Striking auto workers pulled off a major coup before their strike, baiting America’s largest auto manufacturers into self-sabotage.

By Daniel Boguslaw, The Intercept

As the United Auto Workers kept the big three automakers guessing about the union’s strike plans, the car manufacturers made a failed effort to head off the effects of the unprecedented labor action. Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis stalled production and moved parts out of plants across the country, according to rank-and-file workers, self-inflicting financial damage that could have been avoided by meeting workers’ demands.

UAW Strikers with signs in front of General Motors Headquarters, Downtown Detroit

In the weeks leading up to the strike, a cat-and-mouse game between the UAW and the companies unfolded, a version of guerrilla warfare between the parties. Through targeted walk-offs, the union aimed to disrupt the companies’ operations with the fewest possible workers, which would allow the union’s strike fund to last longer into the conflict — essentially forcing the companies to pay workers even during the strike period. The companies, meanwhile, sought to anticipate precisely which plants would be struck and reorganize production and distribution to minimize losses. The Big Three guessed badly.

A spokesperson for Stellantis, which is Chrysler’s parent company, said that it did not shutter any plants in anticipation of the strike and could not speak to component transfers, but that it was aware of “an equipment issue in one of our paint shops that caused some downtime.” A spokesperson for GM also said that the company had “not taken any steps to preemptively close any of our plants,” while Ford did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.

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