DETROIT — United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain is expected to deliver a video address on Friday that could lead to another escalation of the union’s strikes against the Detroit Three automakers, or to reprieves as rewards for more concessions to union demands.
Fain is expected to speak to UAW members in a Facebook Live video beginning at 10 a.m. ET with fallout still raining down from his surprise decision on Wednesday to strike Ford Motor’s Kentucky truck plant, the automaker’s largest and most profitable operation worldwide.
Ford has warned it could be forced to furlough as many as 4,600 workers as early as Friday. The automaker’s Louisville assembly plant, which builds compact Escape SUVs, could be forced to halt operations because it gets parts from Kentucky Truck, a union official told Reuters.
Over the past four weeks, Fain has used Friday addresses to order additional walkouts, or outline progress in bargaining. It is not yet clear if he will seek to expand the strike against Chrysler parent Stellantis, General Motors or Ford.
Last Friday, Fain said if needed, the UAW would strike the GM assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, that builds the Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Suburban and other large, high-priced SUVs. GM’s Flint, Michigan, heavy-duty truck assembly plant is another potential strike target.
But Fain has previously called off planned walkouts at the last minute when automakers made concessions moments before he was scheduled to begin his talk.
The UAW has been intensively bargaining this week with Stellantis, including lengthy talks on Thursday. It is in discussions with GM about the parameters of a deal to include battery plant workers under a master labor agreement.
On Thursday, a senior Ford executive said the automaker was “at the limit” of what it can spend on higher wages and benefits for the UAW. Its latest offer includes a 23% wage hike through early 2028.
“We have been very clear that we are at the limit,” Kumar Galhotra, head of Ford’s combustion vehicle unit. “We stretched to get to this point. Going further will hurt our ability to invest in the business.”
Todd Dunn, president of the UAW local that represents the 8,700 workers at Ford’s Kentucky truck plant as well as those at the nearby Louisville assembly plant, said the truck plant walkout was necessary because Ford “took advantage of fact they had a reprieve” for the past two weeks and stopped making progress on key bargaining issues.
“They’re doing that on the backs of men and women who’ve been out for four weeks” at Ford’s Michigan assembly plant, the Ford Bronco factory that was among the first operations to go on strike last month, he said.
Dunn said his local union members want to see improved retirement benefits and assurances that workers will have jobs as the company shifts its product lineup to electric vehicles.
Ford is working with the UAW on a way to bring workers at joint venture EV battery plants into the UAW-Ford agreement, Galhotra said.