Michael Clevenger and Matt Stone / Courier Journal / USA Today Network
Ford Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Kentucky. September 15, 2023
The United Auto Workers union surprised Ford with a major escalation of its strike, ordering workers to walk off the job at the company’s largest plant.
Late Wednesday night, the union asked 8,700 workers to strike at the Kentucky Truck Plant, which makes some of Ford’s most important vehicles, including the heavy-duty version of the F-Series pickup truck, as well as full-size SUVs.
“We were very clear, and we waited long enough, but Ford didn’t get the message,” UAW President Sean Fine said. “It’s time for a fair contract at Ford and the rest of the Big Three. If they can’t understand that in four weeks, 8,700 workers are shutting down this highly profitable plant will help them understand.”
A Ford official told the media that the UAW called a negotiating session with Ford on Wednesday evening. He said that the union wanted a different offer from Ford than it had presented before. After a very brief discussion that lasted only a few minutes, Fine told company officials, “If this is all you got, you just lost KTP,” and the meeting ended, according to Ford officials.
A union source has a similar version of the brief negotiating session, where Finn told Ford officials: “If this is all you have for us, our members are living and my handshake is worth more than this. This just cost you the Kentucky Truck Plant.”
The union official said Fine told the company that he and Ford’s chief union negotiator would take the offer under advisement, but the offer was the same one Ford had made to the union weeks earlier, even though the company was telling the union it would make a new economic offer.
The UAW went on strike not only against Ford, but also against General Motors and Stellantis, Since September 15. This is not the first time that the union has expanded the strike to include additional facilities. But this is the first time the strike has been expanded to include additional targets without any public warning of an expansion.
The strike expansion occurred at 6:30 p.m. EST on Wednesday evening, although a Ford official said talk on the plant floor before the negotiating session indicated that workers would strike after 6 p.m.
By striking a truck plant in Kentucky, the union is seeking a more profitable part of Ford’s lineup. The vehicles at the plant generate annual revenue of $25 billion for the company, or about one-sixth of its total global revenue. Although it doesn’t produce the F-150 truck, the company’s best-selling vehicle, it does make larger versions of the truck as well as the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.
As of Wednesday night, the UAW strike at Ford was directed at a plant in Wayne Michigan that makes the Ford Ranger pickup truck and Bronco, and a Chicago assembly plant that makes the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Aviator SUVs. While all of these vehicles are profitable, they are not the profit drivers like Ford’s heavy-duty trucks and full-size pickup trucks.
The company said it believes the terms of the economic offer, in terms of wages and benefits, are the best yet made by any of the three automakers.
“UAW leadership’s decision to reject this record contract offer — which the UAW has publicly described as the best offer on the table — and strike the Kentucky Truck Plant carries severe consequences for our workforce, suppliers, dealers and commercial customers,” a statement said. From Ford.
The closure of the Kentucky truck plant also puts at risk nearly a dozen additional Ford operations and several supplier operations that together employ more than 100,000 people, she said.
There were hopes that sufficient progress would be made so that an agreement could be reached to end the strike in at least one of the companies. On Friday, Fine declined to expand the strike and told union members that GM had agreed to a key bargaining demand to include workers at a joint battery plant the company opened and at other plants it plans in this major national agreement with the union.
The union is deeply concerned that automakers’ plans to switch from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric vehicles in the coming years could cost members jobs by shifting jobs away from engine and transmission plants represented by the union to non-union battery plants.
Most of the negotiations between the UAW and the company so far this week have focused on the company’s joint venture battery plants, as well as retirement benefits, another key bargaining demand for the union, a Ford official said. He said progress had been made on these issues ahead of Wednesday’s negotiation session.
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