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UAW, Ford Announce Tentative Agreement, Ending Strike for 20,000

Oct. 26, 2023
Ford agreed to raise base wages by 25%, restore a 2009-era cost-of-living-adjustment, eliminate wage tiers, and allow the UAW to strike over plant closures.

On Wednesday evening, the United Auto Workers announced its bargaining team had reached a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co., ending its strike there after 40 days. According to the union, the contract includes a base wage increase of 25% and accomplishes top union priorities, including a restored 2009-era cost-of-living allowances, a three-year wage progression, the elimination of wage tiers, and a novel right to strike over plant closures.

“This agreement sets us on a new path to set things right at Ford, the big three, and across the auto industry,” UAW President Shawn Fain said. “Together, we are turning the tide for the working class in this country.”

The tentative agreement is still subject to approval from the UAW’s National Ford Council and the UAW’s local Ford unions. However, UAW leaders said they're calling on workers to return to assembly lines in the coming days, before members vote on the deal. That's a major departure from earlier strikes during which workers did not return to their jobs until after ratifying the deal. During a video to UAW members, union vice president Chuck Browning said getting Ford workers back on the job and getting vehicles flowing to Ford dealer lots puts more pressure on Stellantis and General Motors to finalize deals.

Earlier UAW negotiations coverage:

Ford President Jim Farley, in a statement, said he was “pleased to have reached a tentative agreement” with the UAW.

“Ford is proud to assemble the most vehicles in America and employ the most hourly autoworkers,” Farley wrote. “We are focused on restarting Kentucky Truck Plant, Michigan Assembly Plant and Chicago Assembly Plant, calling 20,000 Ford employees back to work and shipping our full lineup to our customers again.”

In a video address, also released Wednesday, October 24, Fain and Browning touted the tentative agreement as the result of its “stand-up strike” strategy against Ford, General Motors Co., and Stellantis SGA.

“On Monday, we called on our UAW family at Sterling Heights Assembly. That is Stellantis’ biggest and most profitable plant,” Fain said. “On Tuesday, our UAW family at Arlington Assembly answered the call, and they went out on strike, shutting down GM’s biggest and most profitable plant. Ford knew what was coming for them on Wednesday if we didn’t get a deal. That was checkmate.”

According to Browning, taking cost-of-living-adjustments into account, starting wages at Ford will increase by about 68% to $28 an hour, while top wages will grow 33% to above $40 an hour. Browning added that some workers at Sterling Axle and Rawsonville will receive an immediate 85% increase to wages, while all Ford temporary workers will see raises of 150% over the lifetime of the agreement.

Even as Fain and Browning told Ford workers to end their strike, they maintained an aggressive stance against the other two companies yet to land tentative agreements.

“We are calling on all Ford strikers to go back to work while we vote on our tentative agreement. Like everything we’ve done in this stand-up strike, this is a strategic move to get the best deal possible,” Browning said. “We’re going back to work at Ford to keep the pressure on Stellantis and GM. The last thing they want is for Ford to get back to full capacity while they mess around and lag behind.”

More UAW negotiations coverage:

The Ford-UAW tentative agreement comes as the UAW has turned up the heat on the three Michigan automakers whose workers it represents by calling strikes at their most profitable factories.

On Tuesday, 5,000 UAW employees walked out at GM’s Arlington Assembly plant, mere hours after the company announced quarterly profits of $1.3 billion and barely a day since 6,800 Stellantis workers shut down production at that company’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

In comments given Tuesday, Shawn Fain tied the GM strike directly to the company’s better-than-predicted quarterly report. GM CEO Mary Barra’s statement accompanying the report that her company is already offering a “historic contract with record wage increases, record job security and world-class healthcare.”  The company filing showed the company had made $1.3 billion in profit during the third quarter, and mere hours after its release, the UAW called for workers at Sterling Heights to strike.

“Another record quarter, another record year. As we’ve said for months: record profits equal record contracts,” Fain said at the time.

Both moves—in addition to an earlier strike at Ford’s Kentucky Truck plant—represent a new, harsher tack from the UAW, which had in early days of the strike shut down smaller operations, leading to company layoffs but leaving the Detroit automaker’s most profitable plants mostly alone.

Both Monday’s Sterling Heights and Tuesday’s Arlington Assembly strikes were foreshadowed by the UAW president in his last Facebook Live address on October 20. “[GM] won’t give us the right to strike over plant closures. I wonder how members at Arlington and Flint truck feel about that,” Fain said. After saying Stellantis had rejected increases in retiree pay, he added he knew “plenty of members at Sterling Heights assembly plant … who aren’t going to like that.”

Fain went on to name-drop Ford’s Rouge River Complex, where Ford manufactures its most popular vehicle, the F-150 pickup truck, and where the company’s executive chairman, Bill Ford, had the week previous delivered remarks calling for the UAW to end the strike, citing Ford’s partnership with the union and contrasting it with non-union automakers.

“The UAW’s leaders have called us the enemy in these negotiations. But I will never consider our employees as enemies,” Ford said. “This should not be Ford versus the UAW. It should be Ford and the UAW vs. Toyota and Honda, Tesla, and all the Chinese companies that want to enter our home market.”

According to a source at Ford cited by the Detroit Free Press before the announcement of the tentative agreement, Ford had anticipated a walkout of the Complex’s Dearborn Truck Plant on Tuesday. The F-150 manufacturer is scheduled to release its own quarterly report Thursday evening after the market closes.

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