Thousands of autoworkers walked out of one of Ford’s most lucrative truck plants on Wednesday, a significant and unexpected escalation of industrial action after four weeks of the United Auto Workers union’s targeted strikes against Big Three automakers.
Some 8,700 union members walked off work at Ford’s truck plant in Louisville, Kentucky, the UAW said.
Union leaders said they called the strike after the company refused to improve upon a contract offer it tabled two weeks ago in a meeting with Ford executives that reportedly lasted mere minutes.
UAW President Shawn Fain said the union has “waited long enough” and that the surprise walkout at one of Ford’s most profitable plants “will help them understand” it is time for a fair contract.
Ford criticized the decision as “grossly irresponsible” but said the escalation is “unsurprising” given the union’s stated strategy “of keeping the Detroit 3 wounded for months through ‘reputational damage’ and ‘industrial chaos’.”
The company said it had already made an “outstanding offer”—described previously by the UAW as the best on the table—and was bargaining in good faith to allow workers at joint venture battery plants to be covered under union contracts.
$25 billion. That’s how much revenue Ford’s Kentucky plant brings in each year, the company said in a statement. Ford said it is the company’s largest plant and one of the largest auto factories in the world. It added that the “stoppage will generate painful aftershocks” and places around a dozen other Ford operations at risk, as well as supplier operations that employ “well over 100,000 people.”
What To Watch For
The sudden strike at Ford’s largest plant marks a significant change in strategy for the union after four weeks of action, which has targeted smaller plants and announced its walkouts publicly before stoppages began. Significant escalations are still possible—only around a fifth of the UAW’s 150,000 members at Big Three automakers are on strike yet—and Ford had previously appeared to be in line to be the first firm to cut a deal. Compared to Stellantis and General Motors, it had been relatively spared during previous strike expansions after swiftly granting concessions and earning public praise from union leaders for its apparent willingness to negotiate. Thousands of workers—nearly 5,000 in total—have been laid off at Big Three firms since the strikes started, which automakers say is necessary as the jobs are tied to factories called to strike.
What We Don’t Know
It’s not clear when or where the union will act next. Fain, through a Facebook live on Friday, is due to give bargaining updates and potentially announce further action.
UAW Goes On Strike Against Big Three Automakers (Forbes)