Ford Scion Selling Labor Truce; UAW Chief Not Buying

UAW President Shawn Fain has repeatedly emphasized during the strike that union members have been shortchanged over the past decade and have seen their standard of living decline.

Joseph Szczesny

October 17, 2023

4 Min Read
Bill Ford 10-16-23
Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford calls for end to month-long UAW strike.Ford

By his own admission, Bill Ford is upset and his feelings are hurt as his 55,000 hourly workers demand a raise.

The Ford Motor Co. executive chairman and great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford is calling on the UAW to move toward settling its monthlong strike against Detroit’s automakers, warning the strike is seriously damaging the U.S. auto industry and the American manufacturing base.

For its part, the union, led by President Shawn Fain, is dismissing Ford’s pleas.

“Bill Ford knows exactly how to settle this strike. Instead of threatening to close the Rouge, he should call up (Ford CEO) Jim Farley, tell him to stop playing games and get a deal done, or we’ll close the Rouge for him,” Fain says of the automaker’s sprawling truck-making complex in Dearborn, MI.

“It’s not the UAW and Ford against foreign automakers. It’s autoworkers everywhere against corporate greed. If Ford wants to be the all-American auto company, they can pay all-American wages and benefits,” says Fain, who has repeatedly emphasized during the strike that UAW members have been shortchanged over the past decade and have seen their standard of living decline.

“Workers at Tesla, Toyota, Honda and others are not the enemy – they’re the UAW members of the future,” says Fain, who has argued from the start that record contracts with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis would open the door to organizing at non-union companies.

Executives at Ford, GM and Stellantis have attempted at various times during the strike to publicly make their case and get around Fain’s militant rhetoric and public relations tactics. But they are having a difficult time making any headway as the UAW makes spending on stock buybacks and executive compensation part of the strike discussions.

Fain Local 551 Chicago 10-7-23 (Getty).jpg

Fain Local 551 Chicago 10-7-23 (Getty)

In a new report, Bloomberg reports executives in the auto industry collected more than $1 billion in compensation over the past 10 years. It is not clear whether Bloomberg’s calculations included the estimated $300 million paid to former Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who led the company from 2006 to 2014.  

GM says it is offering a 20% raise, which would mean semi-skilled workers would be making $39.24 per hour at the end of a four-year contract in September of 2027 or $82,000 a year. GM  also is offering to increase its contributions to the individual 401(k) retirement accounts of employees hired after 2007.

The proposal from GM does not offer to eliminate the tiered wage structure, as the UAW has demanded from the start of negotiations in July, nor the restoration of traditional pensions.

The GM proposals are very similar to those Ford executives described as the “limit” of the company’s offer even after the UAW ordered a strike at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant, which is critical to the company’s finances.

The walkout at KTP clearly exasperated Ford executives.

“If it continues, it will have a major impact on the American economy and devastate local communities,” Bill Ford says Monday during a news conference at the Rouge complex. “The supply base is very fragile and will start collapsing with an expanded strike. But it doesn’t have to go that way. We can stop this now.

“We need to come together to bring an end to this acrimonious round of talks. I still believe in a bright future – one that we can build together. I still believe the automobile industry is a major force for good in our country. We will continue to be there when America needs us most,” he says.

But Ford, significantly, does not mention in his remarks plans for electric-vehicle and battery plants in Kentucky and Tennessee.

“They have to be under the master agreement,” says Scott Houldieson of UAW Local 551 and a leader of the UAWD (United All Workers for Democracy) caucus, which was key to Fain’s election as union president last winter. “It can’t just be, ‘Organize them if you can.’ That’s what you do to family – especially family that earned you billions of dollars,” he adds, suggesting Bill Ford’s comments were aimed at the public rather than striking Ford workers.

Fain has said GM agreed earlier this month to bring battery-plant workers into the master GM-UAW agreement. Job security as the automakers transition to electric vehicles, which use fewer parts and presumably need fewer workers to build, is a key union concern. Ford executives have said only that battery-plant workers should be able to choose union representation.

Subscribe to a WardsAuto newsletter today!
Get the latest automotive news delivered daily or weekly. With 5 newsletters to choose from, each curated by our Editors, you can decide what matters to you most.

You May Also Like