Ford Chairman Bill Ford calls for deal to end UAW strike


DEARBORN, Michigan, Oct 16 – Ford (F.N) executive chairman Bill Ford on Monday urged the United Auto Workers union to end a 32-day strike and reach a new labor agreement, and warned of the growing impact to the automaker and the U.S. economy.

“We can stop this now,” Ford said of the strike that expanded last week to shut down the Kentucky plant. “I call on UAW colleagues … We need to come together to bring an end to this acrimonious round of talks.”

Ford made his appeal in a press conference at the automaker’s historic Rouge assembly plant near company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

UAW President Shawn Fain replied with a statement warning Ford that the union could “close the Rouge” with a strike. “If Ford wants to be the all-American auto company, they can pay all-American wages and benefits,” Fain said.

More than 34,000 union members working at Ford, General Motors (GM.N) and Chrysler parent Stellantis (STLAM.MI) are out on strike and Ford has furloughed 2,480 other workers, citing impacts of the strike.

Ford, the great grandson of company founder Henry Ford, said Toyota, Honda, Tesla and other automakers “are loving this strike because they know the longer it goes on, the better it is for them.” In reply, Fain said workers at Tesla and other non-union U.S. auto producers “are not the enemy—they’re the UAW members of the future.”

The UAW’s walkout at Kentucky Truck, Ford’s largest and most profitable assembly operation globally, “harms tens of thousands of American workers,” Ford said. “If it continues, it will have a major impact on the American economy.”

On Friday, Fain accused Ford of trying to game the talks with inadequate offers and insisted Ford sharply boost compensation. Ford CEO Jim Farley should “go get the big checkbook – the one Ford uses when it wants to spend millions on company executives or Wall Street giveaways,” Fain said.

Fain also vowed to strike additional plants at any time.

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, which is higher than GM or Stellantis has offered. Ford has said the UAW’s proposals would have meant bankruptcy if implemented in 2019.

Ford has long portrayed himself and his family’s company as the most union friendly in the industry, a message he repeated Monday.

The union has called Ford “the enemy,” Ford said. “It should be Ford and the UAW against Toyota, Honda, Tesla and all the Chinese companies” that want to enter the U.S, market, he added.

Harley Shaiken, labor professor at University of California Berkeley, said Ford was looking to speak directly to workers.

“He’s doing it to move the talks in a way that he would find more desirable,” Shaiken said, but added “This is likely not going to work.”

He said UAW could be targeting and pressuring Ford because it has the best offer on the table and the union feels it can get the automaker to a deal that it could then pressure GM and Stellantis to match. GM and Stellantis did not immediately comment.

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Reporting by Joseph White in Dearborn; writing by David Shepardson; additional reporting by Ben Klayman Editing by Franklin Paul, Grant McCool and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Joe White is a global automotive correspondent for Reuters, based in Detroit. Joe covers a wide range of auto and transport industry subjects, writes The Auto File, a three-times weekly newsletter about the global auto industry. Joe joined Reuters in January 2015 as the transportation editor leading coverage of planes, trains and automobiles, and later became global automotive editor. Previously, he served as the global automotive editor of the Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw coverage of the auto industry and ran the Detroit bureau. Joe is co-author (with Paul Ingrassia) of Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry, and he and Paul shared the Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting in 1993.

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