Detroit automakers survived a pandemic and semiconductor shortage. They were embracing a historic transition to the electric-vehicle era, underwritten by billions in subsidies from the White House. Profits were rolling in.

Then came Hurricane Fain.

The walkout led by United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain at three General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis factories is no ordinary labor-versus-industry clash. The 54-year-old former Chrysler electrician is pushing for a dramatic reset of the wage scales and working conditions that would meaningfully change the economics of car manufacturing. He’s taken aback executives with eye-watering demands for 40% pay increases over the next four years and a 32-hour work week — unheard of in American manufacturing.