Ford temporarily lays off hundreds of workers at Michigan plant as UAW goes on strike

Ford Motor Co. said it has temporarily laid off 600 non-striking workers at its assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, just hours after other employees at the facility walked off the job early Friday as part of the strike. Historic strike of the United Auto Workers Against the Big Three automakers.

The labor union launched targeted work stoppages at the plant, along with the General Motors plant in Wentzville, Missouri, and the Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio, after failing to reach an agreement. New employment agreement with automakers by Thursday night’s deadline.

Ford said in a statement that the Wayne layoffs are related to the UAW work stoppage, marking the first time in the union’s history that it has launched strikes simultaneously at all three automakers.

“This layoff is the result of a strike in the final assembly and paint departments at the Michigan assembly plant, because components made by these 600 employees use materials that must be electronically encapsulated for protection,” Ford said in a statement on Friday. “E-coating has been completed in the striking paint department.”

Wayne, Michigan, with A population With a population of about 17,000, it is a suburb located about 45 minutes west of Detroit and is composed primarily of blue-collar and middle-class families. The Ford plant employs about 3,300 workers, most of whom build Bronco SUVs and Ranger pickup trucks.

UAW President Sean Fine visited the Wayne plant on Friday and said the strike will continue until Ford, General Motors and Stellantis (which owns Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, along with foreign brands like Peugeot and Open) raise workers’ wages and improve job security.

UAW union members picket outside the Ford Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, on September 15, 2023.

Matthew Hatcher/AFP via Getty Images

Work on the assembly line is “hectic, there’s no downtime,” said Pete Gruetsch, 56, who has worked at the Wayne plant for 25 years.

“When someone takes a day off in the final [assembly]“It takes two people to do this job, sometimes three, because the jobs are so heavy,” he added.

Grujic said there is a divide among employees between those who earn higher wages and those who earn less. This is because managers tell lower-tier employees that they will move them to the upper tier once the higher-paid worker retires, but that rarely happens, he said.

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Grujic said tensions were high at the plant throughout the weeks leading up to the strike. On Thursday night, employees represented by the UAW’s Local 900 had done a little work and were eager to see how labor negotiations would go, he said.

“We sat up all night until 10pm when Vine decided to hit half our factory,” he said.

Shortly after Fine chose their union to strike, managers allowed employees to leave their work stations, Grujic said.

“We were held in the cafeteria until midnight [and] “Then they let us out,” he said. “No one was allowed back on the ground at that point.”

Pete Gruetsch was an employee at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan for 25 years. He poses for a photo with UAW President Shawn Fain after Local 900 begins a strike against the Big Three automakers in Detroit on Friday, September 15, 2023.

Pete Grujic

Once outside, pro-strike chants began, said Grosch, who noted that younger workers were generally more energetic, while people with more seniority on the scene remained silent.

Finn did not say why the UAW leadership chose the Wayne plant for the strike. Grujic said he believes that’s because workers at the facility also manufacture parts for seven other Midwest plants that produce the Ford Escape, F-250 and F-350 vehicles as well as dashboards for the F-150. The parts manufacturing side of Wayne is still operating, but the union could ask those workers to withdraw as well, Grujic said.

“After a week or two of Ford not negotiating, they will end up closing the rest of the plant,” he predicted. “This in turn will lead to the closure of another six or seven factories.”

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