In a surprising move, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has intensified its strike against Ford by instructing 8,700 workers to halt operations at the Kentucky Truck Plant, the company’s largest facility. This plant is pivotal in the production of Ford’s critical vehicles, including the heavy-duty variant of the F Series pickup and full-size SUVs.
UAW President Shawn Fain expressed frustration, stating, “We have been crystal clear, and we have waited long enough, but Ford has not gotten the message. It’s time for a fair contract at Ford and the rest of the Big Three.” The union’s decision to escalate the strike comes after four weeks of negotiations without substantial progress.
Ford officials reported that the UAW had called for a negotiation session on Wednesday evening, seeking a different offer than previously presented. However, after a brief discussion, Fain conveyed dissatisfaction, declaring, “If that’s all you got, you just lost KTP” (Kentucky Truck Plant), prompting an abrupt end to the meeting.
This marks the first time the strike has expanded without public warning, catching many off guard. The move targets a highly profitable segment of Ford’s lineup, with the Kentucky Truck Plant generating approximately $25 billion in annual revenue, constituting about one-sixth of the company’s global revenue. While it doesn’t manufacture the best-selling F-150, it produces larger versions of the truck, as well as Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.
Until now, the UAW’s focus had been on a Michigan plant and the Chicago Assembly plant. However, by targeting the Kentucky Truck Plant, the union is hitting a more lucrative part of Ford’s portfolio. The company claims that the economic terms offered, including wages and benefits, represent the best among the three automakers.
Ford expressed disappointment in the UAW’s decision, emphasizing the serious consequences for its workforce, suppliers, dealers, and commercial customers. The closure of the Kentucky Truck Plant also jeopardizes around a dozen additional Ford operations and numerous supplier operations, affecting over 100,000 employees.
The UAW has been on strike against Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis since September 15. While previous strikes expanded to additional facilities, this escalation to additional targets without public warning underscores the union’s determination. The strike at the Kentucky Truck Plant began at 6:30 pm ET on Wednesday, catching some by surprise, as discussions on the plant floor indicated a strike might occur after 6 pm.
Concerns over the transition from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles are a key issue for the union. Fain had recently declined to expand the strike, citing progress with GM. However, the union is wary that the shift to electric vehicles could lead to job losses in union-represented engine and transmission plants, moving jobs to nonunion battery factories.
Recent negotiations between the UAW and Ford have centered on the company’s joint venture battery plants and retirement benefits, both crucial bargaining demands. Despite some progress on these fronts, Wednesday’s session ended without resolution, prolonging the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing strike. The stakes are high for both the union and the automaker, with broader economic implications hanging in the balance.