UAW escalates strikes against Detroit Three automakers

DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union significantly escalated its strikes against Detroit Three automakers Wednesday when 8,700 workers walked off their jobs at Ford’s Kentucky truck plant.

The surprise move about 6:30 p.m. took down the largest and most profitable Ford plant in the world. The sprawling factory makes pricey heavy-duty F-Series pickup trucks and large Ford and Lincoln SUVs.

UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement that the union has waited long enough “but Ford hasn’t gotten the message” to bargain for a fair contract.

“If they can’t understand that after four weeks, the 8,700 workers shutting down this extremely profitable plant will help them understand it,” Fain said.

Fain will make a live statement on Friday, Oct. 13th at 10 a.m. on Facebook Live to give bargaining updates and take further action if needed.

The strike came nearly four weeks after the union began its walkouts against General Motors, Ford, and Jeep maker Stellantis on September 15, with one assembly plant from each company.

UAW Local 440 members at GM Bedford Casting Operations are still working but without a contract. They are ready to hit the picket lines when called to.

UAW Local 440 President Derek Cronin

“We are ready to stand up and fight when called upon,” said UAW Local 440 President Derek Cronin.

“Right now this fight is about not getting the dignity and respect we deserve,” added Cronin. “For the long hours and work we put in. We work seven days a week 12 hours a day. That work needs to be dignified. This is about the working class the ones that work for a living. 

In a statement, Ford called the strike expansion “grossly irresponsible” but said it wasn’t surprising given the UAW leadership’s statements that it wanted to keep Detroit automakers hobbled with “industrial chaos.”

A Ford executive said the union set up a meeting at the company’s Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters Wednesday afternoon where Fain asked if the company had another offer.

High-ranking Ford executives responded that they are working on possibly bringing electric vehicle battery plants into the UAW national contract, essentially making them unionized. But they didn’t have a significantly different economic offer, the executive said. Fain was told the company put a strong offer on the table, but there wasn’t a lot of room to increase it and keep it affordable for the business, the executive said.

Fain responded by asking if that’s the company’s best offer, “You just lost Kentucky Truck Plant,” said the executive. The meeting only lasted about 15 minutes, he said.

A UAW official said that Ford has been saying for two weeks that it would add to its economic offer, but at the meeting Wednesday, the company presented the same offer it made earlier. Then Fain and Vice President Chuck Browning called local leaders and the strike began a short time later, the official said.

The significant escalation against Ford shows that Fain is trying to increase pressure on the company. Fain likely is testing how far he needs to push Ford before going to “full throttle,” by taking all 57,000 Ford members out on strike.

The UAW expanded its strikes on Sept. 22, adding 38 GM and Stellantis parts warehouses. Assembly plants from Ford and GM were added the week after that. The Kentucky strike brings to 33,700 the number of workers on strike against the three automakers.

Thus far, the union has decided to target a small number of plants from each company rather than have all 146,000 UAW members at the automakers go on strike at the same time.

Last week, the union reported progress in the talks and decided not to add any more plants. This came after GM agreed to bring joint-venture electric vehicle battery factories into the national master contract, almost assuring that the plants will be unionized.