LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
The United Auto Workers and General Motors have failed to come to an agreement on a new contract, and union leaders say a nationwide strike will start before midnight tonight. As NPR's Bobby Allyn reports, the expected strike is set to affect nearly 50,000 workers and potentially disrupt production across North America.
BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: UAW Vice President Terry Dittes says talks with GM have broken down and the workers are still far apart on a number of economic issues, including wages, health care costs and profit-sharing. The nationwide strike is set to idle U.S. production.
TERRY DITTES: The strike is about the members in Texas, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and throughout the great nation. We're fighting for the future of the middle class.
ALLYN: The four-year contract between GM and UAW lapsed on Saturday. UAW's Brian Rothenberg says negotiations are continuing, but it is very unlikely both sides can figure out their big differences before midnight.
BRIAN ROTHENBERG: Basically, when they - when the morning shift would have reported for work, they won't be there. And the picket lines are being set up.
ALLYN: Kristin Dziczek is the vice president of the Center for Automotive Research. She says the strike would have to last more than a month to affect inventory at car lots. But she says the impact will ripple fast across North America.
KRISTIN DZICZEK: There's great reliance on cross-border trade in engines and transmissions and other parts to support production in Canada and Mexico. So it would not take long before Canada and Mexico were also shut down.
ALLYN: Dziczek says GM made more than $8 million in profits last year. But still, both sides are wary about the prospect of a weakening economy. GM has announced closing four factories, and the union has been fighting those decisions. GM says the average hourly employee makes around $90,000 a year. Dittes says the union will not make concessions.
DITTES: This strike is about us. It's about standing up for fair wages, for affordable, quality health care, for our share of profits and for our job security.
ALLYN: The strike comes at a time of crisis for UA leadership. A years-long federal corruption probe has already resulted in multiple guilty pleas over embezzlement and bribing allegations. Bobby Allyn, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.