LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Many auto workers are going back to the assembly lines they left last month despite not voting on the tentative agreements just yet. A Michigan State University expert says the last six weeks have changed the landscape for both the UAW and the Big Three.

Dwight Jackson is one of those members returning to work this week. He also leads local UAW 1753 the union branch representing workers at the Lansing redistribution center. Jackson calls the tentative agreement a large step in the right direction to get back lost benefits from earlier contract talks.

“The majority, we won back a lot so that’s half the battle, we’ll live to fight again but I think it was a good fight, most definitely,” says MSU Supply Chain Management Professor Steven Melnyk. He says the Big 3 automakers would have faced a more difficult recovery from the strike had it gone on much longer.

UAW strike signs on the ground. (WLNS)

“In general, we were at the critical point,” he tells 6 News.

He credits the stand-up strike strategy – which called strikes at only select factories — for creating both the pressure to push the automakers to the table, as well as limiting the long-term fallout.

“You have a situation where it’s going — there’s going to be recovery — the way the strike was done was not as damaging as it could have been because it was not an all-out strike. It was a partial strike,” he says.

Melnyk says if the strike had lasted any longer it would have exhausted the stockpile of finished vehicles for both Ford and General Motors which he estimates– would have lasted 50 days.

“You didn’t want to lose out on sales of your most popular brand,” he says. “You also didn’t want a backlash. Prices are coming down, supplies are improving.”

Melnyk says people were left scared by how hard it was to find a car during the height of the chip shortage in 2022. He says looking ahead, the Big Three will need to focus on rebuilding trust.

“How do we improve our relationship with our employees? Because we will need them moving forward,” he said. 

UAW members are expected to vote on whether to accept the agreements with the big three. Before then,  UAW locals will set up meetings, so members have a better understanding.