Key Points About the U.A.W. Strike Against General Motors

The walkout by nearly 50,000 union workers could dent the company’s bottom line and affect its suppliers.

Credit...Steve Koss for The New York Times

First, it was teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. Then hotel workers at nearly two dozen Marriotts and grocery employees at Stop & Shop locations in the Northeast.

Now the United Automobile Workers have gone on strike at General Motors, sending nearly 50,000 members at factories across the Midwest and South to picket lines.

U.A.W. leaders in Detroit voted unanimously on Sunday to authorize the strike, the union’s first such walkout since 2007, after the current agreement with G.M. expired.

The strike, part of a recent surge of labor activism, has halted production in the United States. A prolonged stoppage could affect G.M.’s Canadian and Mexican operations, crimping the company’s bottom line and the fortunes of its parts suppliers.

Here’s what you need to know about the U.A.W. strike.

G.M. has a smaller U.A.W. work force than its Detroit rivals, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler. But the union has taken aim at G.M. as the automaker has earned solid profits — it made $35 billion in North America over the last three years — while closing auto plants in the United States.

One of the union’s objectives is getting G.M. to reopen a shuttered car factory in Lordstown, Ohio, a goal that President Trump has endorsed. G.M. closed that plant, and others in Baltimore and in Warren, Mich., as part of a cost-cutting effort that eliminated 2,800 factory jobs and thousands of white-collar positions. A new contract could also decide the fate of a plant in Detroit that G.M. has kept open after designating it for closing.

Focusing on a single company is a standard practice in the talks between the U.A.W. and the Detroit automakers every four years. For now, the contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler have been extended.

One sticking point in the negotiations is the automaker’s tiered wage structure — workers who have been with G.M. since before 2007 earn about $31 an hour, most of those hired since then make much less, and so-called temporary workers are at the bottom of the wage scale at about $15 an hour. Benefits packages also vary.

The system was put into practice in 2007 as a way for G.M. to hire cheaper labor without cutting the wages of its existing employees. But workers say it is unfair and creates tension in plants to have people earn significantly more or less for doing similar work.

G.M. wants employees to pay a greater portion of their health care costs, and to increase work-force productivity and flexibility in factories. In a statement, G.M. said it had offered to make more than $7 billion in new investments in plants in the United States, add 5,400 jobs and increase pay and benefits.

“We presented a strong offer that improves wages, benefits and grows U.S. jobs in substantive ways, and it is disappointing that the U.A.W. leadership has chosen to strike,” the company said on Sunday.

Yes — but significantly less. A long shutdown could prove painful for union members, who will have to get by on strike pay of $250 a week while out of work.

Any hit to G.M.’s North American profits would also reduce the annual profit-sharing checks union members receive each March. In each of the last three years, the checks have averaged $11,000.

Depending on its length, the strike could have far-reaching effects, potentially hurting some of the thousands of companies that supply G.M. with auto parts like seats, motors and brake systems, as well as the raw components that go into those parts.

The first companies in G.M.’s supply chain to feel the effects of the work stoppage will probably be “just in time” suppliers making components like seats and overhead systems that are shipped directly to the plants.

“If the plant stops, you stop production,” said Michael Robinet, an expert on the auto industry at IHS Markit. “You’re making components for a facility that doesn’t need them. General Motors is not going to buy because they’re not building any vehicles.”

A spokesman for Denso, one of the country’s largest auto-part suppliers, said the company was “monitoring the situation and waiting to see how it unfolds.”

“The impact on our production for G.M. will be determined by how long it takes to reach a compromise,” said the spokesman, Andrew Rickerman.

G.M. has a large enough inventory of cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles to last more than 70 days, according to a report released last week by Cox Automotive. But if the strike continues for weeks, consumers could start to notice shortages, said Kristin Dziczek, an expert on the auto industry at the Center for Automotive Research.

“A few weeks in, consumers will start to have difficulty getting the configurations or the colors they’d like to see from the dealers,” she said.

As a recession threatened in 2007, U.A.W. members — it had 73,000 at G.M. at the time — walked out of General Motors plants for three days before a deal was reached. The company lost $23 million in 2007.

In many ways, that was a different world for the major carmakers, before the recession led to a global crisis in the auto industry. In 2009, G.M. filed for bankruptcy, though it has bounced back in recent years and now employs 49,000 full-time and temporary U.A.W. members.

Over the last decade, the U.A.W. has negotiated two contracts with G.M. without resorting to nationwide strikes, in 2011 and 2015.

Neal E. Boudette contributed reporting.