DETROIT (AP) -- The head of the United Auto Workers warned Wednesday that the union plans to go on strike against any Detroit automaker that hasn't reached a new agreement by the time contracts expire next week.
"That's the plan," President Shawn Fain responded when asked if the union would strike any of the companies that haven't reached a tentative deal by the time their national contracts end.
A strike against all three major automakers -- General Motors, Stellantis and Ford -- could cause damage not only to the industry as a whole, but also to the Midwest and even national economy, depending on how long it lasted. The auto industry accounts for about 3 percent of the nation's economic output. A prolonged strike could also lead eventually to higher vehicle prices.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Fain left open the possibility of avoiding a strike. He acknowledged, more explicitly than he has before, that the union will have to give up some of its demands to reach agreements. Contracts with the three companies will all expire at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 14.
"There's a lot of back and forth in bargaining," he said, "and naturally, when you go into bargaining, you don't always get everything you demand. Our workers have high expectations. We made a lot of sacrifices going back to the economic recession."
In the interview, Fain did report some progress in the negotiations, saying the union will meet today with GM to hear the company's response to the UAW's economic demands. In addition, discussions are under way with Ford on wages and benefits. Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, has yet to make a counteroffer on wage and benefit demands, he said.
Stellantis declined to comment Wednesday. GM confirmed it would meet today with union representatives but wouldn't comment further.
Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, said he thought Fain's latest remarks suggest "that he is opening up to the realities of bargaining" as the strike deadline nears.
Fain's willingness to acknowledge publicly that he isn't going to achieve all the union's demands shows there is more flexibility in his approach than previously thought, Masters added.