GM Gets Its Long Shot

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FLINT, Michigan: Notwithstanding the puzzling redundancy of Judge Paul V. Gadola's order Tuesday for General Motors and the United Auto Workers to begin arbitration they had already volunteered for -- TIME reporter Joe Szczesny says it was a case of "cranky judge syndrome" -- GM's bid to have the UAW's strike declared illegal starts Wednesday in hearings before independent arbitrator Thomas Roberts.

The arbitration could end the 44-day strike that has cost GM more than $1.2 billion worth of production and brought the world's largest carmaker to its knees -- but more likely it won't. "The consensus is that the arbitrator will rule against GM," says Szczesny, and find that the strike is legal under the UAW's contract with the automaker. "We're expecting a ruling as early as Saturday, but the hearing could drag on into next week." And the strike itself? The latest prognosis is sometime around Labor Day.