20071010 uaw chrysler strike 18
United Auto Workers members picket at the Chrysler Warren Stamping Plant after the UAW and Chrysler failed to reach a tentative contract agreement by today's UAW-imposed deadline. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images) - 


KAI RYSSDAL: That would be Chrysler LLC, thank you very much -- as in limited liability company. Not publicly owned GM, which settled with the UAW last week, and not the deeply troubled Ford, which has yet to formally deal with the union.

Nobody knows how long the strike's going to last, or what a deal might look like. What is likely, though, is that UAW negotiations won't ever be the same again. Marketplace's Alisa Roth has more.

ALISA ROTH: It's called pattern bargaining: negotiate one contract, then use it as a model for the others. But each of the Big Three has very different concerns. General Motors has a lot of retirees, so its biggest worry was how to pay for health-care. Chrysler's owned by a private-equity firm, which wants the freedom to sell off assets or cut jobs.

Still, with the American auto industry in its current troubled state, there's not a lot of room for disagreement. Dave Cole heads the Center for Automotive Research.

DAVE COLE: Well, the bottom line for all of these companies, and for the union, is really the bottom line. That is, the only job security ultimately is a successful profitable company going forward.

He says workers have to realize the most generous benefits in the world are worthless if the company offering them goes bankrupt. That understanding may be helping keep negotiations at Ford on track -- it's in the deepest financial trouble of the Big Three, and rumor has it, negotiations there are going smoothly.

Keith Crain edits the trade publication Automotive News. He thinks this year's negotiations may be the end of an era, that there will be no more pattern bargaining in the future.

KEITH CRAIN: They're going to have three car companies that are negotiating totally separately on terms, on how long the contracts will last, on all sorts of things that apply specifically to that company.

The question for now is how long Chrysler's workers will stay off the job. This afternoon, workers were piling wood for campfires -- they're planning to stay out all night.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.