Thousands of workers under the United Auto Workers union (UAW) struck work at three of the US biggest automakers' plants demanding higher wages, with no agreement in sight, that could have crippling effects on the American economy haunted by the return of inflation.
The UAW said it was walking out for the first time since 2019 amid negotiations with Ford, General Motors (GM) and Chrysler-maker Stellantis. At midnight, the UAW union officially went on strike against the Big Three automakers, media report said.
Members walked out at three plants: a GM site in Wentzville, Missouri; a Stellantis centre in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford assembly location in Wayne, Michigan.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra told NBC News that the UAW strike might start to affect the US economy relatively soon, assuming the union and the Big Three don't reach agreements on a new contract.
"For every GM job, there's six other jobs that are associated with it, and that's why the ripple effect can happen so fast. It's not going to be good for the economy. It's not going to be good for anyone," she said.
The US automakers, Ford and GM, have big operations in India and elsewhere in the world employing hundreds of workers and the US strike could impact operations worldwide.
GM's chief executive Barra, since January 2014, is witnessing the second UAW strike under her watch. The first targeted GM specifically and lasted 40 days in September and October 2019.
The UAW strike has all potential to snowball into one of the largest work stoppages in the past three decades -- though this one is still a far cry from the humongous strikes of the 20th century, when more than a half-million walked off their jobs in multiple strikes to fight for better workplaces.
The first GM employees to go on strike were workers at its Wentzville, Missouri, plant.
Barra told NBC News the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks are made there, and that customers might start seeing the impact of those actions quickly.
"We can't make enough of the products because customers want them. So it can have an immediate impact," she told NBC News.
Barra, who has been GM's CEO since 2014, added that car and truck supplies are unusually tight now, experts have observed.
"We still have not caught up from everything that's happened in the last couple of years," she said, referring to post-pandemic supply chain problems and specifically to semiconductor shortages.
Barra said she does not expect the UAW to negotiate with the Big Three today after 13,000 of its members walked off the job at midnight, beginning a strike against GM, Ford and Stellantis.
"My understanding is, no negotiation today," she added.
"Our team is at the table ready to continue and get the problem-solving we need to do to get people back to work."
The UAW did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CNBC said Stellantis has a problem that its local rivals don't. The company, formed in early 2021 from a merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the French automaker Peugeot, has more production capacity than it needs around the world.
Stellantis wants to close or sell 18 of its US facilities, including factories and parts depots, as it fears an inventory pileup that could affects bottomline.
The company has a total of about 35 factories and parts distribution centres in the US now.