Sunday, February 25, 2024

UAW Weighs Expanding Strikes During Holiday Season Despite Consumers’ Plans to Reduce Spending and Apple’s New iOS 17

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The “summer of strikes” continues into fall as the United Auto Workers union considers expanding ongoing work stoppages at General Motors plants nationwide. This comes as consumers aim to curb spending during the vital holiday shopping season, according to a new survey. Meanwhile, Apple has released its latest iOS software update packed with user-friendly capabilities.

Nearly 50,000 UAW members are currently on strike at over 50 GM facilities across the U.S. amid stalled contract negotiations concerning wage increases, health benefits and other issues. So far, the work stoppage has primarily affected three key GM plants that produce critical components like engines and transmissions.

However, UAW President Shawn Fain said the union is prepared to authorize strikes at more GM locations if substantial progress isn’t made in talks by noon on Friday. Broader walkouts could bring many additional assembly lines to a halt, hampering GM’s production and revenue.

The potential UAW expansion comes amid a wave of strikes this year, as unions leverage today’s tight labor market and elevated inflation to demand improved compensation and working conditions from employers. In August alone, over 4 million total labor days were lost from major work stoppages — the highest single month tally since August 2000, the Labor Department reported.

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Beyond GM, major strikes are also underway against Deere & Co., Hollywood studios, hospitals and more. Economists attribute the trend to strengthened union bargaining power given plentiful job openings and renewed grassroots worker activism.

As union workers push for higher pay, many consumers aim to curb spending amid inflated prices for goods and services. Per a new CNBC survey from Morning Consult, 92% of American adults have reduced spending over the past six months.

Looking ahead to the crucial holiday shopping season, over 75% plan to continue limiting expenditures on non-essential items. Approximately 60% expect they will sometimes or often cut back on essential purchases too.

Survey respondents said they are especially reducing spending on clothing, dining out, and entertainment outside the home. With consumers’ budgets shrinking, major retailers now face excess inventory and downgraded holiday sales projections.

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“We’re anticipating a muted holiday season and taking a cautious approach,” said Gap CFO Katrina O’Connell, as the apparel retailer warned of weakening consumer demand.

Overall holiday sales growth is forecast at just 2.5–4.5% versus 13.5% last year, according to Deloitte projections. Retail analysts say steeper discounts and promotions will be required to clear shelves given value-focused shoppers.

Even so, Apple is rolling out enticing new capabilities that could spur sales of its latest iPhones. On Monday, Apple unveiled iOS 17, its major annual software update for iPhones.

iPhone owners dating back to 2018 models can install iOS 17 to access the improvements. New features include customizable “Contact Posters” for incoming call displays and an updated iMessage interface. iOS 17 also provides proactive crash detection, integration with the Matter smart home standard, and automatic late night “got home safe” notifications.

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Analysts say the enhancements reflect Apple’s strategy of tightening integration between its expanding lineup of devices and services. By baking sought-after capabilities into iOS 17, Apple likely aims to drive new iPhone sales even amid the inflationary climate.

“These incremental improvements entice Apple’s loyal user base to keep upgrading,” said industry analyst Thomas Husson.

As Apple courts customers this holiday season, emboldened unions are leveraging today’s job market to demand greater compensation from employers. With potential UAW expansion looming at GM, the “summer of strikes” persists into the fall and holiday shopping season.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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