DaimlerChrysler, Hold the Chrysler

Auto industry analyst John Casesa agrees. The union has already scared off foreign car companies that might have wanted to expand their production and distribution networks in the United States, he said. "I am quite confident that the union strategy will be to delay, to resist, and that takes you into September when the [union] contract expires."

The current contracts between the Big 3 U.S. automakers and the UAW expire this fall. Negotiations will begin in earnest in July. In past years, the union has focused on one automaker, then sought to negotiate a similar deal with all three companies.

But if a private equity firm is sitting across the table during the talks, the union will have a tougher time fashioning one contract that could apply to Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

That's especially true if new bosses at Chrysler push for cuts the union finds unacceptable.

"I think these are going to be the most difficult negotiations the union has ever faced," said Chaison.

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